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Wanderers Ways. Neil Thompson 1961-2021

Match Report Bolton V Wolves


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SOMETIMES a player just wants to be loved. And, no, we're not going down that particular road.

 

This game had barely past the quarter-of an-hour mark when Chung-Yong Lee surged forward, given the freedom of the Wolves left.

 

 

With options everywhere, Bolton's diminutive South Korean hacked a woeful cross into the away end, to the jeers and the catcalls, to the exasperation of just about everyone.

 

 

It was a stinker of a cross, a real horror and a young player's head lowered.

 

 

So Owen Coyle bounced out of his dugout, picked his shorts - shorts for goodness sake, with snow in the clouds and hypothermia in the arctic wind - out of his backside and began roaring his approval.

 

 

The applause and encouragement were relentless. Coyle stood at the very edge of his technical area, clapped and shouted his praise, smiled at the right-winger.

 

 

A player's head was in the balance, but Chung-Yong was not allowed to retreat into his shell because of the ferocity of his manager's positivity.

 

 

And in that one moment, with just 17 minutes gone, Coyle sewed the seeds for a vital win. In that one act, the Trotters manager breathed fire and optimism into the 21-year-old they call the Blue Dragon.

 

 

Coyle sees a challenge in everything. He takes bets from those stepping into lifts at the Reebok Stadium, charges up four flights of stairs and usually ends up winnings.

 

 

He wants to bring some Burnden Park spirit to Bolton's still relatively new home, stuck in Horwich.

 

 

That could be his most difficult challenge because that old working-class core sits uncomfortably with the out-of-town shopping stores that ring what remains an impressive stadium, despite a continued search for its soul.

 

 

The odds are not that great but that is what appeals about Coyle.

 

 

Playing the percentages is not his style, and football, and certainly Bolton, should embrace such a philosophical switch.

 

 

They used to smash the drums, whip up a frenzy and the bombardment would start. They still have the legacy of the pom-pom girls and the blaring dance music when they trot out at the Reebok.

 

 

But yesterday was largely about trying to pass the ball through Wolves, rather than go over them, about the encouragement to get the ball down and play with it, of footballers playing football, about changing the identity of a football club.

 

 

It will take time and Coyle, for all his strengths, has a pretty poor sense of timing. Leaving Burnley six months too early, then arriving at Bolton post Big Sam and Megson.

 

 

Telling unsure players that the way forward is to express themselves during a run that plunged them back into the bottom three takes a bit of bottle. Perhaps yesterday was when that bravery began to get its reward.

 

 

Coyle's enthusiasm is infectious. He spoke a month ago about wingers taking players on, about supporters getting excited and about changing the perception of Bolton, up and down the country.

 

 

And there was a measure of delivery of those aims in this crucial win.

 

 

He needed big performances with so much in the balance - and in key areas he got it.

 

 

 

 

GLEE: Bolton celebrateFabrice Muamba took an increasing stranglehold on the centre of midfield as the game progressed. He was energetic, driven, inventive and the fulcrum of victory.

 

 

Around him buzzed Stuart Holden and Jack Wilshere, similarly slight midfielders, who passed and moved, and created and excited.

 

 

Kevin Davies was a man more fouled against than fouling. Just. But his nuisance value was great, while at the heart of defence stood match-winner Zat Knight and makeshift centre-half Sam Ricketts, who grew into the role.

 

 

And then, of course, there was Chung-Yong. With the game in first-half injury-time, he chased a Bolton corner that went from one side of the pitch to the other and by any stretch could have been considered lost.

 

 

His head, however, was not. And with fine, intricate skill and no little confidence right on the by-line, he first beat Adlene Guedioura and then struck a low cross through the legs of Kevin Foley into the path of Knight, who had the deftness of finish to redirect the pass beyond Marcus Hahnemann.

 

 

It was ultimately enough, but both sides fought with the obvious realisation of what was at stake.

 

 

You could not question the spirit or the desire.

 

 

Wolves smashed the inside of each post in the second half.

 

 

On the hour mark, David Jones cracked a superb, 30-yard free-kick onto the right-hand upright - and such was the pace that the ball went past Jussi Jaaskelainen as it cannoned across the face of his goal.

 

 

Twelve minutes later, Foley's volley struck the other post, again off the inside, and bounced to safety.

 

 

Mick McCarthy's folded arms did not move each time, but the Wolves boss knew the potential significance of this loss. He pointed, with some justification at a possible penalty that was not awarded when Gretar Steinsson appeared to clip Matt Jarvis as he bore down on Jasskelainen before Ricketts blocked his shot.

 

 

But then Bolton could have had a penalty themselves moments after the restart when Ronald Zubar clearly handled in the Wolves penalty area.

 

 

And the Trotters free-flowing football saw Davies and substitute Ivan Klasnic spurn fine opportunities to kill off the game. Belief grew and provided the platform for victory.

 

 

And Bolton will never want for that whilst Coyle remains in charge.

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