It was almost inevitable that after such excellent, yet pointless, games against Manchester United and Arsenal, expectations would be thwarted against Bolton.
Let’s be clear, however unglamorous they are, they are fifth in the table and would have been upper-middle even without yesterday’s win. They are a good, disciplined team and played as such yesterday.
After the terrible start at Arsenal, presumably everyone was drilled to ensure a similar disaster did not reoccur. However, where Arsenal’s goal was straightforward, Bolton weren’t even required to finish the move themselves to score in the first minute after Stearman headed into his own net. The worst possible start, and the uphill struggle only got steeper as we twice allowed Bolton all the space and time in the world in the penalty area to build up a three goal margin. Game over, I thought, but credit to the team for the spirit to try and dig their way out of this particular hole, an attitude which will reap rewards later in the season no doubt, but none today.
Wolves had switched to 4-4-2, with Edwards out in the midfield, and we always came out second best in the middle of the park. We weren’t overrun, however, as we have been earlier in the season it was just that, denied any space, our passing game fell almost to pieces. Add to this a stinker of a game from Henry and in the first half we were on a hiding to nothing. Hahnemann continually lumped the ball straight down the middle of the pitch, and Bolton came away with it. Our best play, of course, did not come from these situations, but when we were able to get the ball through the midfield – with Milijas, Jarvis and Doyle in particular showing the way.
And I’m saving the defence for last, as this is clearly where the game was lost. Two goals at home should be enough to win. The three goals we conceded were entirely unavoidable. We were hindered by a warm up injury to Berra, but I wasn’t too concerned about Mouyokolo starting in his place. He reportedly had an excellent last season with Burnley and looked decent in the League Cup. However, the central defenders looked less like players who had not played with each other before than people who had never seen each other in their lives before. Stearman came back into the team in a blaze of glory, but has gone backwards the last few games.
An own goal was a bad start, and thereafter the Bolton players mainly had the beating of him and his partner. Bolton’s second showed excellent skill from Elmander, but to allow the opposition to pass, turn, dribble and shoot the ball unchallenged in the penalty area is unforgiveable, especially with the number of Wolves shirts bumbling ineffectually nearly. Likewise there was too much space, too little marking for the third.
As to individual performances:
Hahnemann – not a lot he could do with the goals, but hit and hope tactics need to end (the Manager should tell him this, I feel)
Foley – decent game, contributed well to attacking play again, topped off with an excellent goal
Stearman – Bad, bad day. Failed to put in enough tackles but a good header for the own goal
Mouyokolo – Like Stearman, but without the own goal. Let’s not write him off though. Good goalscroring opportunity at the end but just failed to connect with header
Elokobi – I’ll own up and say I wanted to see him given a chance in the place of Ward (if Van Damme was not to get the gig). In an up and down game, he looked no better or worse than Ward defensively. Made good tackles, but failed to make some key ones for the goals.
Jarvis – excellent once he started getting the ball. Main difference this season has been confidence to keep running at the defenders
Milijas – another good game, hit the bar and forced a couple of good saves. Not afraid to take a shot, from which our forwards could have learned a thing or two in this game. Struggled a little like the rest of the midfield with the lack of space
Henry – terrible, terrible day. Misplaced passes and caught in possession too much
Hunt – off the pace still, for all his effort
Doyle – good game, kept running and involved in some nice interplay in attack. Not going to get a goal until he shoots more, however.
Ebanks Blake – ok, but very frustrating that he chose to leave several balls to the defender that he should have chased
Fletcher (sub) – struggles when asked to play wide, but showed excellent goalscorers instinct for our second. Is our top scorer, despite lack of starts.
So, a disappointing day, without the warm glow of thinking that we deserved more. Credit to Bolton who bossed the midfield and took their chances well, but we should not have given them three goals so easily. The fact that we should have scored more ourselves is almost irrelevant. We’re can play well enough to win the points to stay in this League, but we’re second from bottom and seem to have reverted to a hit-and-hope style that will get us nowhere. Next week will be better.