Wasn’t it?! Was it? Well overall no, we came out 2-0 victors so how could it be? But just as our support often seems a crowd with two very contrasting outlooks this was a game with two very contrasting halves.
Take the first half on its own and we really were very far from good. We were that team that brings frustration & anger out so often in our fans. Same old Bolton. Take the second half on its own & you know what we were fairly decent really. A team with a hint of quality & the talent to put 2-0 on the score-sheet. Our same good old Bolton?
Same old Bolton
‘Same old Bolton’ was certainly the feeling of the first half for many. From the moment the match line-up found its way to our fans there were mutterings questioning what had been learnt from Burnley. ‘Their old Coyle ways of how not to defend’ I hear some of you cry, yes yes that argument could be made but of course I mean our opening match of the season. There were mixed opinions on whether dropping Ream & Petrov was a smart move, on whether Kevin Davies has still got it left in him, and much less mixed views on whether we’re capable of a 4-4-2 with our current central midfield pairing.
By 45 minutes there wasn’t much question about the performance being witnessed though. Conor Sammon probably should have put us one goal down, and we’d had a few minutes here & there but overall seemed a lacklustre side worthy of nothing better than mid-table Championship. This against Derby County who’ve finished no better than 12th in the last 3 Championship seasons. Frustrations were vocalised by much of the crowd at half-time & who wouldn’t be frustrated at that point by what’d been witnessed so far?
Our same, good old Bolton
But that was so far, and though there are doubts amongst fans about Coyle’s ability to turn a game at half-time the second half turned out to be much closer to what we’d hope to see from our Bolton, at our ground and of course arguably from our captain. Perhaps it wasn’t the half-team talk but the shock of a disallowed goal against that did it, but regardless we finally grew into the game and a run of sustained pressure, & some actually rather good football, resulted in the lead thanks to a thump into the net from the captain 13 minutes from the close. Kevin Davies very clearly has Bolton in his heart & we saw that same look of joy on his face as the good ol’ boy found us the lead. 12 minutes later and Eagles capped the assist by slotting our second away and Bob’s your uncle, a clear-cut victory with 2 deserved goals & a clean sheet. What were we ever worried about?
Were we appalling? Were we fantastic? Where does this match leave us!?
After those 90 minutes I think it’d be fair to feel a little confused & doubtful about where we are as a team after our first two matches, I certainly do. On one hand we were victorious having scored 2, we had 26 shots (10 on target) to their 11 (4 on target) and we kept a clean sheet. On the other hand for much of the game we weren’t very good at all. We failed to score until the 77th minute, we certainly didn’t look like we belonged back in the Premier League and surely doubts have to remain about our ability to own a match with our play style and formation (*cough* 4-4-2 *cough*).
We were not an appalling team against Derby. Equally though we were not fantastic. We certainly looked unlikely to storm rampant back to the Premier League, and it’s only right for us to have concerns given we so desperately want to see that return. The fullness of these 90 minutes though surely shows us something we’re likely to need along the way, patience.