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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » Whites fail screen test as winless run extends to six matches

Whites fail screen test as winless run extends to six matches

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
A depressingly familiar tale of effort without any execution unfolded for Wanderers at Villa as a poor run of results lurched into a full-blown crisis.

This was not a poor Bolton performance but it bore all the traits of a team slipping into serious trouble.

Poor defending allowed the outstanding Jack Grealish to open the scores early on, poor finishing ensured Villa’s fragility was never truly tested, and plain poor fortune bit hard when Phil Parkinson’s side desperately need to catch a break.

There will be complaints about Villa’s second – which emanated from a soft free kick given on the edge of the box, and seemed to be headed in by James Chester in an offside position.

Yet to ignore the fact this is a Bolton team who has scored once in nine hours of football and which has won just once in 12 games would be plain wrong.

Before a ball had been kicked, Parkinson said his side would play with a “freedom” and “enjoy the challenge” and there were patches of play which backed-up the manager’s optimistic words on a chilly night in the West Midlands.

The manager’s search for a winning formula continued as he reverted back to a four-man defence and made five alterations to the team beaten by Hull City last weekend.

No manager in the Championship has made more changes to his line-up than Parkinson this season – and one wonders whether how counter-productive the chopping and changing is starting to become?

Certainly, within four minutes, the disorganisation at the back was plain to see as Tammy Abraham strode forward and split the two centre-backs with a slide-rule pass allowing Grealish to scamper around Ben Alnwick and roll the ball into the net.

At that stage it was easy to fear for Wanderers. Villa attacked incisively and looked hungry for a second but aside from a vicious strike from Albert Adomah – so often Bolton’s bogey man – there was little to directly worry Alnwick.

Steadily, Wanderers began to stabilise. For all the home side’s verve going forward, there were spaces to exploit. Not for the first time, however, you were never entirely sure there was enough quality to do it.

Villa did ride their luck a little. James Chester made a fine clearance on the line under pressure from Craig Noone when Jack Hobbs’ header threatened to drop over the line.

Orjan Nyland made a save from Erhun Oztumer and a Clayton Donaldson flicked header skidded agonisingly across the six yard box without anyone able to get a telling touch.

Nervous groans started to reverberate around Villa Park, yet there always looked to be a threat whenever the home side attacked at pace. After Grealish had been chopped down for the sixth or seventh time on the left, Conor Hourihane’s free kick picked out Chester but after his header had nestled into the back of the net, the linesman’s flag came to Bolton’s rescue.

Villa should have definitely got a second goal on the board within minutes of the restart as Jonathan Kodjia walzed unopposed into the box to square a pass for his strike partner Abraham. Thankfully, his aim was off and a simple tap in ended up among aghast fans in the Holte End.

Within seconds Wanderers launched their own offensive. Some intricate build-up on the edge of the box involving Oztumer and Taylor ended with Noone bearing down on goal from an acute angle – his shot bouncing off the calf of Nyland and over the crossbar.

The game was finely balanced. An equaliser would have asked serious questions of a Villa side packed with quality but bereft of genuine confidence.

That theory was never investigated, though, as a soft free kick given on the edge of the box gave an opportunity for Grealish to whip a fine ball in for Chester to head home, this time without interruption from the linesman’s flag.

Questions will no doubt be asked of referee Oliver Langford, who adjudged that Joe Williams had fouled McGinn, and maybe too of his assistant – with replays suggesting Chester might have strayed slightly offside as he outmuscled Pawel Olkowski.

In any event, Wanderers had to find a way back into it. Josh Magennis and Lloyd Dyer were thrown in as Parkinson stuck with the same shape. Some context on squad quality was given when Dean Smith brought on Yannick Bolasie for Adomah.

The band of 400-or-so fans who had made the trip stayed entirely behind their side to the end, even though their team looked spent long before the end.

Christian Doidge – whose goal against Rotherham seems so long ago – had a sight of goal with five minutes to go only for Axel Tuanzebe to make a well-timed challenge.

The former Forest Green man then teed-up fellow sub Dyer in the dying minutes, only for the profligacy to continue.


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