Bolton 1-1 Millwall ~ Match Musings

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Ah, yes, a bit of a bonus trip this week, a very rare visit to a new stadium and incidentally number eighty one out of the current ninety two for this seasoned hack, to see the Lions get the promotion push back on the menu after the brief detour that is the FA Cup (splendid win, dour game, PNE out, Villa in the next round, hoorah)

Me and MrsB picked up Grandson Jack en route and shot off up the familiar M1/M6 route to Greater Manchester and to my astonishment there were no road works anywhere on the motorway, the first time in a decade, probably, that the dreaded 50MPH speed limit is enforced with those perfunctory bastard average speed cameras waiting like silent assassins to rip 60 quid from your bank account without so much as a thank you.

So, we got to the Reebok Stadium nice and early, parked up in the spacious car park and took a look at this innovatively designed football ground built back in ‘97. I have to admit, I was impressed from the outside, it looked clean and tidy, it had all the trappings of an affluent club, even if the owners are plying their trade in the bottom half of the championship.

Just outside the stadium, in the middle of a well sculptured round a bout, rose the quite magnificent Spirit of Sport monument, a structure rising about 90’ into the air twisting in a helix of shiny silver plaques with images of famous Bolton sporting personalities. Now some can mock this sort of thing, but not me, I like this sort of thing. I wish Millwall could something similar at the Den, a statue of Kitchener, a bust of Harry Cripps, a plinth with a bronzed moulding of a folded newspaper, anything like that would do…

The locals in Bolton are not quite what I expected. I have an awful habit of stereotyping and I fully expected to meet the cast of Phoenix Nights ambling about the place. But I was wrong. They are infinitely worse. I suspect Peter Kay toned down the characterisations as people would find it too preposterous to believe that people like these existed. They are the epitome of Norvern Monkey. It comes as no surprise to me to look back through the history books and discover that the name is derived from the original Bowelton. How apt then that the locals look like they surely belong there…

So, we made our way to the turnstiles and were met with some overzealous stewards determined to find an incriminating banner relating to an average no mark footballer who bears a striking resemblance to a Hollywood superstar. The fact that they didn’t notice the numerous inflatable toys that said more than any banner could was sort of lost on them, I think.

Inside was as good as the outside a definite 8/10 stadium, but the floodlighting was woeful and the electronic advertising boards were irksome and annoying.

Mr Jackett has added to the squad. He has signed a new left midfielder in the shape of Martyn Woolford from Bristol City for somewhere between £10,000 ~ £99,999 (an undisclosed five figure sum, apparently), and he went straight into the side so the line-up was as follows: Forde in goal, Smith A, Shittu, Beevers and Lowry at the back, Woolford, Trotter, Abdou and Henry in the midfield and N’Guessan was partnered by the welcome return of Keogh.

There were about 1100 Millwall fans congregating in the away end and the inflatable Nemo’s were bouncing around as they articulated the sentiment of the pertinent facsimile that Sordell, did, indeed, have an uncanny resemblance to a marine creature, not unlike a piscatorial cold blooded vertebrate.

It was delivered with much gusto as well…
Referee Clayton got the game going and we were straight out of the traps, Henry and new man Woolford hugging the touchlines and Trotter and Abdou feeding them the ball, we looked in control, we had a bit of a scare when Ngog outflanked Smith but his speed was of little use as he crossed the ball only to find the ageing davies puffing and blowing and unable to keep up with him.

Shortly after this minor scare we had them going backwards nicely and our pressure soon paid off after about ten minutes. N’Guessan managed to nick the ball just outside their box and his quick thinking put Keogh through but the clumsy challenge afforded by Knight saw referee Clayton unhesitatingly point to the spot for a penalty.

The cheers in our section were understandably stifled by the recent memory of Henderson’s abysmal attempt at a spot kick after he was fouled and demanded the ball. I thought trotter was our recognised penalty taker but when Keogh stepped into the breach I must admit to a fleeting feeling of déjà vu.

He stepped up to the mark and took one of those frighteningly cheeky little chip down the middle penalties that either make the taker look a fool or the ‘keeper. This time it was the ‘keeper’s turn as we watched Bogdan dive away to Keogh’s left as the ball floated gently into the middle of the net. 0-1! Cue controlled frenzy in the away end.

Bolton didn’t quite capitulate after this but it is fair to say we had it al our own way for most of the first half after the goal but again our failure to capitalise on possession and dominance was there for all to see, Trotter was bossing the middle of the park and he also found time to let fly with a stunning strike that was a whisker away from hitting the target, and then Bogdan pulled off a smart save from a N’Guessan shot and then Woolford hit a corker of a shot that was deflected out for a corner.

James Henry benefitted from some neat football between Smith and trotter but the wingers left foot shot went narrowly wide. It really was all one way traffic.

And then disaster struck with about ten minutes remaining of the first half. Bolton had a rare foray into our half and managed to get the ball into our area. Davies passed the ball to Lee who went across the face of the goal just inside the box and as Shittu stuck his foot out the Bolton man duly tripped over it and a second penalty was awarded by referee Clayton. Andrews took it and fired it home sending Forde the wrong way. It was totally against the run of play and a trifle unfair on Shittu who was playing well.

The half finished with the scores level and it was all about what might have been as again we had to accept that we were the better side but a one goal lead is always going to be a vulnerable position.

Now the second half was a bit of an anomaly. In fact, it is becoming a bit of a worrying trait of late as we seem to have something done to us during the half time break which seems to nullify the vim and vigour we show in the first forty five minutes. We looked nervous and full of trepidation for reasons unknown to me and Bolton cottoned on quickly.

Forde was tested in quick succession but he was up to task, saving comfortably both times but our usually solid looking defence suddenly looked as about convincing as a grown man getting upset by a young child’s mickey taking.

Trotter, imperious in the first half, was looking jaded and Abdou was virtually non-existent in the middle as Bolton tested our resolve, in fact for the first twenty minutes or so I don’t think we threatened their goal at all. But as the time ticked on Trotter found his second wind and we started to get going again and we were giving as good as we got, Shittu was marshalling the defence, ably assisted by Beevers who was covering the whole of the back line.

We 20 minutes left we thought Sordell was coming on for them but in fact it was Afobe and you have to marvel at the ready wit of the travelling Lions fans who within seconds of spotting it was Sordell declared in unison the he did indeed look like Sordell to same tune that declared Sordell’s aquatic resemblances.

Henderson replaced Keogh with about ten minutes left as the front man was clearly knackered but it was the next substitution that really caught our attention as we heralded the entrance of the man from Atlantis himself.

As you would expect, he got stick every time he went near the ball and rightly so, he looked like a fish out of water and took the bait every time. He had an awful ten minute cameo appearance and was floundering by the final whistle.

We nearly nicked the result when we counter attacked superbly with Henry bombing down the wing and when he centred the ball we watched with baited breath as N’Guessan went sliding in but he missed the ball by a fraction and the chance had gone.

There was still time for N’Guessan to save our precious away point in the dying seconds as he headered the ball off the line with Forde still flapping.

UI suppose the draw was a fair result in the end and I would have been happy with the point before the kick off but I still feel that if we had got a second goal our first half performance deserved then Bolton would never have got back in the game.

A point away from home is always a point gained and the lads got applauded off at the final whistle. It was a strong performance and listening to the local radio on the way out of Greater Manchester it seemed the locals agreed that we were a much better, well organised side than they thought before the kick-off and the point was probably more than Bolton might have deserved.

So, there it was, a new ground ticked off, a point in the bag and another episode in the story of a Fish called Sordell. It wasn’t a bad away day at all…

"A Fish! A fish! My kingdom for a fish!". - (King Richard III, Act V, Scene IV).

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    Excellent ;-)
    Brilliant read