Boredom In Bolton
From the moment I stepped out of the car into the grim frozen northern air, you could tell what sort of a day it was going to be. One of those dull, niggly and uneventful one or two goal defeats. And, to look at the game on the balance of play, it really should've been a 0-0. Neither side did enough to score and the goal that did go in certainly had more than a claim of offside about it (although to give credit where it's due, it was certainly a good finish from Nolan. Shame we made such a balls up of the defending in the first place and couldn't get it clear when we had plenty of chances).
From where I'm looking we don't have that bad a team and didn't really play that badly today - we were certainly even with Bolton and never looked likely to cave in; the only other real chance was Nolan kindly putting the ball wide when clean through. Look at our squad; Westerveld and Ashdown are both inconsistent but they're not bad keepers. The defence is slowly starting to get used to each other and the likes of O'Brien and Priske have looked good. In midfield we're fairly defensive minded at the moment due to injury but we haven't really been out-battled this season. It's obvious to all and sundry where our problems lie - it's in the goals. Or lack of. Obviously everyone points to the departure of Yakubu and indeed rightly so, but you have to look at those who are left behind. We all know how good Lua can be but "prolific" is hardly a word you would use to describe him. Silva is a decent player but hasn't really come to life at Fratton yet. Karadas gets better by the game, in my opinion, but even so has never been a great scorer of goals throughout his career. And that pretty much leaves the recovering cripples like Todorov, who seems to be playing more out of a sentimentality vote rather than being any sort of a threat at the moment.
Which, all in all, leaves us in a spot of bother. Even a super pundit like Charlie Nicholas knows that goals win games.
But sadly today was so predictable that even Mark Lawrenson got it right by saying Bolton would win 1-0. Equally, you could guess there'd be a defensive error in it somewhere. Equally, you could guess we'd have a couple of great crosses that somehow no bugger would get on the end of. Sure as night follows day, it still takes three weeks to get out of Bolton's car park. As per every other week, the police piled in at some point to evict Westwood, once again leading to the tradition of a few people shouting angrily at the stewards for a couple of minutes before going back to the game. Just like always there were some people shouting "EASY! EASY!" at every opportunity (including once when... er... we won a goal kick. There really are some knob-ends out there). Predictably, the ball spent more time in the stratosphere than on the deck. (Worryingly we also played our fair part in the hoof-a-thon; a sad sign of the times that more and more sides seem to be going "direct" and sticking one up front. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would rather seen us at least try and play good football even if we still lose, rather than just twat it up the pitch every time and... still lose).
In an otherwise boring day devoid of excitement, flowing football and even without a u-turn on the way to the stadium, it was amusing to see Reggie lose his rag at the fourth official and share his Wayne Rooney impression with the world. The referee actually had a decent game (apart from missing the blatant penalty for the shirt-tugging on Karadas) but he obviously realised he was doing well and had to start cocking things up post-haste; presumably why he started messing around with injured players, substitutions and that stupid foul throw decision on Priske in injury time. Admittedly our strikers have the killer instinct of a new born lamb but we were still in the final third and lining up to get the ball into the box; for the ref to suddenly decide that where we were taking the throw in from was wrong (despite his linesman saying otherwise) was a very poor decision.
Still, good on Alain to show a bit of passion. And to be fair to the players, they at least put in a bit of a battling performance and didn't do too badly today after the Gillingham debacle, so all hope is not lost - even if the result isn't what we'd hoped for. As for the gaffer - the inevitable fine and touchline ban will follow which could make things interesting for forthcoming games and you have to wonder who will take charge of the side - who reckons Velimir will step in? Anyone? Just for a couple of games? Hello?