Monday, November 01, 2004


Everyone in football talks incessantly about luck, but sometimes you get what you deserve. Yesterday we deserved nothing.

The match at Bolton saw us face a side higher in the table for the first time since Souness took charge. Of course, it was simply destined to be the first time we lost under his command.

The Trotters ran out worthy winners, recording a 2-1 victory. Our passing was loose (Bowyer the prime culprit), our midfield lacked bite (the in-form Jenas was particularly missed) and our attack was worryingly blunt - Kluivert off-colour, Shearer and Bellamy barely getting a kick - while defensively we were flustered by Bolton's highly effective tactic of launching aerial assaults, particularly from long throw-ins. Their two goals may have been scrappy, El Hadji Diouf and Kevin Davies capitalising on shambolic scenes in the six yard box (and, in Davies's case, a rare error of judgement from Given), but were no more than their efforts merited.

The only bright spot of a mystifyingly bad Newcastle performance was Ambrose's splendid equaliser - a neat shimmy past two defenders followed by an unstoppable swerving piledriver from 25 yards which arrowed into the top corner. We're unlikely to cheer many better goals than that over the course of the season.

The taste of victory must have been all the sweeter for Gary Speed, perhaps Bolton's star performer against the club which he served so well but which deemed him surplus to requirements in the summer. Certainly he outplayed his replacement in the Newcastle engine-room, Nicky Butt - but then our players were outperformed all over the pitch.

I was as disappointed as Sam Allardyce to see Souness adopting the Dalglish and Robson approach in the post-match interviews, blithely sticking his head in the sand about our own shortcomings whilst taking the time to gripe about Bolton's style of play. Our defending was not solid, and neither did we display a great deal of spirit and enthusiasm. The first important step to getting things right is to admit there's a problem - ignoring the fact that we were beaten by the better team on the day does no-one any favours in the long run.

Bolton continue to be more than the sum of their parts, whilst all too often we are less.


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