Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bolton Part III

In light of last night's not entirely unexpected defeats for Wigan and West Ham, our game at Bolton tonight presents something of a 'free option' ie. any point(s) we acquire will be a bonus, but defeat will leave our relative position unchanged. Sheffield United's win was disappointing of course, but Fulham are rarely the sturdiest of visiting teams, and as Meat Loaf said, "2 out of 3 ain't bad."

However whilst Bolton have once again proved themselves to be one of the most organised and efficient teams outside of the 'big four', we have beaten them twice already this season, and on a muddy pitch in front of banks of empty seats, there is absolutely no reason why we can't make it '3 and 0' as they say in America.

However the team news does not bode well with Bent and Young still out, Bougherra already crocked, Reid doubtful, Zhi not ready and Lisbie fit. And with the transfer window closing within hours of the final whistle, conspiracy theorists will be ready to pounce upon any suspicious last minute 'injuries' and wonder if it won't be Jan 2006 all over again (when Murphy slipped out of the back door, and into footballing obscurity). And when you consider that as recently as May 2002 he was all set to take the field in the World Cup, and here he is football's 'forgotten man' really have to feel for the bloke don't you?

Another player who won't be figuring at Bolton is Simon Walton who has completed a loan signing to Cardiff. Although it's really a case of 'Walton for A Song', it is a little disappointing that even with a paucity of midfield talent at Pardew's disposal, he has concluded that the young Yorkshireman is not yet good enough, even as a squad player. Along with the foreign acquisitions of the likes of Kelly Youga (21), Rurik Gislason (18) and Jani Tanska (18), whilst the policy of uncovering hidden young talents is admirable, the first team remains virgin territory for them. When combined with the lack of homegrown talent too, it is little wonder the squad feels so stretched on nights like this.

Bolton have few outstanding individuals, but the sum is clearly far greater than the parts and a physical battle will no doubt ensure with Kevin 'what me ref?' Davies at the centre of it. They are also perhaps the first team in Premiership history to have two players called Abdoulaye, and for reasons that I can't quite put my finger upon, I've a feeling we will cause a surprise this evening. The game is being shown here in full albeit two hours delayed, and having seen a West Ham side desperately lacking in confidence lose tamely to Liverpool (the scoreline didn't reflect their superiority), I look forward to comparing our hopes to theirs.

Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£701) is punting on the draw at 13/5, although I am going to go a step further and suggest a vital and undeniably huge away win. For the remainder of the season I will also be predicting the attendances to highlight the obvious and worrying decline outside of just a handful of clubs. NY Addick predicts: Bolton 1 (Anelka), Charlton 2 (Hughes, Bent M). Attendance: 18, 756


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