Today’s pre match little known fact was that, scarcely believably, Town hadn’t won a Saturday home fixture since January (against Watford and courtesy of our old friend Mr Daniel Gee).
It would be useful if Danny could dig out the last time we won a home game on Thursday in advance of the horribly annoying slightly later than midweek game against Forest.
Following the relief of a hard fought midweek win in the capital, Bolton Wanderers looked an eminently winnable fixture given the struggles of the Lancastrians against enormous debts and Lennon’s severely restricted funding. However, The Trotters have had a reasonable start to the season and, in particular, they have proved difficult to score against.
Powell’s unchanged team (though Hogg replaced Billings on the bench) needed to carry forward the confidence gained from their first win of the season to achieve what has been very elusive in our Championship seasons – back to back wins.
Not for the first time this season, a somnolent start was punished as a high cross field ball caught Davidson not only out of position but staring at its trajectory like a frightened foal. Whether the troublesome sun, which affected both sides throughout in our wrong way round stadium, unsighted the Australian or he simply judged it badly, it was taken down well and instantly by Feeney who had the easy task of advancing untroubled before beating Steer to give the visitors a gift of a lead.
The sense of “same old Town” was palpable – and it wasn’t to lift as Town spent the first 20 minutes creating no threat, conceding possession and allowing Bolton to dominate possession. In particular, movement was non existent, leaving players in possession with few options, and these were invariably bad ones.
Ponderous Town were lucky in those early stages as Bolton conjured up 2 or 3 presentable chances, with one being cleared off the line and shots flying narrowly wide. A second would have wounded the home team badly and made it difficult to turn the tide.
From about the 20 minute mark – and after the withdrawal of the injured Heskey – Town finally found their missing energy and started to curtail their opponents easy passage through the game by the simple method of closing them down , moving the ball more quickly and matching Whitehead and Miller’s eager desire.
An equaliser nearly came when Prince, who had a terrible day, sliced a clearance on to the bar and, at last, we began to resemble the team who had secured that overdue midweek win without ever looking particularly threatening; though Scannell headed across goal towards Miller who, inexplicably, didn’t attack the ball for what could have been an easy score.
The match turned in first half injury time, all one minute of it. Town won a corner, which Bunn shaped to cross only to find Huws 25 yards out to fire in past a defender and keeper to level.
It was pretty hard on Bolton who had rarely been troubled by a stuttering home team and, arguably, should have been more than one up, but Town’s loanee had picked the perfect time to add to his strike at Charlton.
As the 2nd half kicked off, the visitors were down to ten men as Prince had nipped off the pitch just before the restart and hadn’t yet returned. Illness was cited by Lennon later, which may or may not have been a euphemism – whatever the reason, it was just the beginning of a chaotic performance by him and his team mates in the second period.
From the start, Town rattled the Trotters’ back four.
Carayol, who had been, to put it kindly, enigmatic in the first half, stripped the left back bare before putting in an inch perfect cross for a diving Huws to head inches wide from close range.
Just a few minutes later, the Middlesbrough loanee put Town ahead when he cut in from the left after being fed by Huws and curled an excellent finish past Amos.
Miller, who had troubled the opposing centre halves for much of the first period but to little effect with his team mates either too far away or too slow to capitalise, tormented them again and tempted Derik in to another foul which finally earned him a booking.
Bunn had 2 attempts – one saved and one just wide – before Miller fed Carayol who put in an excellent cross missed by Bunn but swept in by Huws to give Town breathing space and a deserved enhanced lead. Bolton looked demoralised and only the scale of victory was in question.
The answer came when a tame corner was half cleared only for Wilson to dally long enough for Lynch to rob him with a sliding tackle, get up and crack the ball home.
The equally pitiful Derik brought down substitute Wells late on to earn a second yellow, before the misfiring Bermudian hit the goalkeeper from close range when he should have scored a confidence lifting goal.
A 5th or even 6th wouldn’t have flattered Town’s second half performance, which was a stark contrast to their listlessness in the first, and consecutive victories has not only lifted the club to mid table but also injected hope in a newly assembled squad after a difficult and disrupted early season.
Like he had at Charlton – and including his personal performance in the worryingly poor first 20 minutes – Whitehead was excellent. Strong in the tackle, economical with his passing and brimming with energy he dragged his teammates along with him, lifting them from their early lethargy.
Up front, Miller looked fitter than in the past and bullied the Bolton defence until substituted to a deserved ovation. His lack of goals continues to be an issue, but he provided an invaluable focal point for the team and, eventually, Bunn, Scannell and Carayol profited from his muscular presence.
Cranie looks as if he has resolved the troublesome right back problem – his assured competence replacing the erratic Smith and he is proving to be an astute signing, even if his introduction to the team has been too long in coming.
In Huws, we finally have a midfielder willing to get in the box – our threat from the flanks has doubled with Carayol but that has to be accompanied by team mates to aim for and the Welshman gets there.
A sterner test is coming in the shape of Forest, but, for now, our early season malaise has been banished and there can be genuine hope that the new look team can only get better with greater familiarity.