Sunday, November 21, 2010

No case for the defence

Bolton 5 - 1 Newcastle Utd

Shambolic defending, ill discipline and sharp finishing from Johan Elmander, who chose an inopportune moment to open his home account for the season, saw us slump to a very poor defeat at the Reebok Stadium. Like Elmander, strike partner Kevin Davies also bagged a brace - his both from the penalty spot - on a truly miserable afternoon in Lancashire.

Big Lad returned up front, with Peter Lovenkrands dropping to the bench, while Alan Smith was the alleged replacement for the suspended Cheik Tiote. The eventual outcome underlined the Ivorian's importance to the side - without his energetic protection, our defence crumbled alarmingly under pressure from in-form opposition. Match Of The Day 2's Kevin Day laboured a comparison between Brazil and the fluent and eye-catching football Bolton are producing under Owen Coyle, and the home side certainly played well - but we were also very much guilty of being the architects of our own downfall.

That downfall began 18 minutes in when Jose Enrique and Sideshow Bob both wasted opportunities to clear and Kevin Nolan indulged in a spot of juggling in the area. Davies duly dispatched the spot-kick.

We fought back and showed both intent and potential to restore parity, but instead it was the Trotters who grabbed the next goal. We could gripe about Chung-Yong Lee receiving the ball in an offside position before finishing past Tim Krul (this after Matt Taylor's free-kick came back off the crossbar), but that would be to ignore the fact that we once again failed to clear and squandered possession on the edge of our own area. Clearly a lesson still to be learned, despite Morten Gamst Pedersen's opener for Blackburn at St James' Park earlier this month.

Hopes of stern words at half-time heralding a comeback were dashed just five minutes into the second period, with Elmander ambling through our back line and evading Krul's despairing dive to knock home Bolton's third.

We did at least hit back quickly, Rocky finishing assuredly after Big Lad's neat through-ball, but despite a smattering of opportunities we couldn't reduce the arrears any further. Our chances of salvaging an unlikely point receded from slim to slimmer when Sideshow Bob allowed Elmander to power past him and net his second, and from slimmer to slimmer again when our Argentine defender - apparently intent on reprising his relegation season performances - felled the Swede with a deliberate elbow smash to the face. Like ASBO's punch on Pedersen, it was a stupid assault which will rule him out for important games, with either Sol Campbell or the fit-again Steven Taylor set to take his place alongside Mike Williamson.

There was still more salt to be rubbed into an already very raw wound in injury time. Enrique finally made a decent defensive contribution only to be wrongly penalised for a foul on Davies, the Bolton striker once again scoring from the spot. That brace will presumably have gone some way towards assuaging the disappointment of being overlooked by Fabio Capello for Wednesday's England friendly in favour of our own Rocky - who, in the midst of a car crash of a team display, was our only real plus, smacking the post shortly after Sideshow Bob's dismissal.

I think we were all resigned to a handful of comprehensive defeats, and that's only the second one we've suffered this season - but the identity of the latest side to put us to the sword is a little disconcerting. On a positive note Tiote is thankfully back for Sunday's visit of Chelsea, so we should hopefully be more secure. The champions have lost three of their last four league games and are struggling for goals, so could be vulnerable - though of course they'll have taken note of goings-on at the Reebok and identified our meeting as a good opportunity for a reassertion of their title credentials...

A Bolton fan's view: Manny Road (complete with obligatory reference to "the rich Geordie tradition of delusion" - old cliches clearly dying hard...)

Other reports: BBC, Guardian


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