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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » MARC ILES' BIG MATCH VERDICT: Bolton Wanderers 0-2 West Bromwich Albion

MARC ILES' BIG MATCH VERDICT: Bolton Wanderers 0-2 West Bromwich Albion

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
While civil war rages between owner and fans off the field, on it Phil Parkinson’s team continue to scrap without reward.

On a night when tension was evident from the very first whistle Wanderers showed the battling attitude that might yet be enough to keep them in the Championship, and the lack of quality around goal which may be their downfall.

West Brom were nowhere near their best – and Parkinson may argue his side did not allow them to be.

But Darren Moore’s promotion chasers took the points with goals from Jay Rodriguez and Sam Field without really getting out of second gear.

Parkinson made four changes to his side – but would have made five had Josh Vela not had to rush to hospital to be with his partner at the birth of his first child.

Experienced heads in the form of Gary O’Neil, Andy Taylor, Clayton Donaldson and Jack Hobbs were added to the side beaten at Bristol City, the plan being to match-up West Brom’s 4-3-3.

Kick off was slightly delayed when fans began to throw tennis balls on to the pitch prior to the first whistle and, alas, it was not the last time on the night frustrations were aired.

Rogue whistles were evident throughout the first half, causing some issues for official David Webb, while another ugly incident occurred in the corner of the ground as supporters tried to unfurl a banner.

All proved unwanted distractions to a lively first half where Wanderers gave almost as good as they got.

They might have snatched an early lead as Craig Noone beat Mason Holgate to swing in a great cross for O’Neil, whose glancing header dropped inches wide of Sam Johnstone’s post.

Bolton looked at their best when getting the ball wide to Noone or Pawel Olkowski, and O’Neil again showed himself to be a willing runner, keeping Craig Dawson and Ahmed Hegazi on their toes.

Parkinson’s side always seem happy to concede possession and try to hit on the counter, and with Sammy Ameobi showing a little more of his old magic on the ball there was scope for some optimism with gaping spaces left behind the Baggies’ two attacking full-backs.

West Brom are not the Championship’s top scorers for nothing, though, and when they clicked into gear it was easy to see why their strikers had shared more goals than the entire Bolton squad.

One incisive move, straight from Johnstone’s kick, finished with Dwight Gayle checking back inside Olkowski and volleying a right-footed effort just wide of the post.

The plan to contain and counter went out of the window 19 minutes in when Jason Lowe conceded a poor free kick on the edge of the box. The ball was headed back by ex-Wanderers loanee Dawson then over the line by Rodriguez.

The former Burnley man looked half a yard offside but Parkinson will no doubt ask why his side has been undone once again by a set-piece, an area of the game which has so often been their strong suit.

Bolton have not won after going behind in their last 45 attempts in the Championship, a damning statistic if ever there was one.

And they rode their luck somewhat a few minutes after Rodriguez’s goal as Gayle’s right-wing cross appeared to strike the outstretched arm of full-back Taylor in full view of the assistant. Referee Webb was unmoved, despite some furious protests from visiting players.

Wanderers continued to fight. Luke Murphy volleyed one shot into the stands and Ameobi had another stinging effort tipped over the top by Johnstone after some good work on the right by Olkowski.

West Brom continued to play in patches, Gayle hitting the top of the bar with a free kick from distance, but Parkinson will have felt his team was well and truly in the game at the half-time break.

That spirit continued after the restart. Mark Beevers nodded down Noone’s cross and Johnstone was called upon again to make a fingertip save from Lowe

Moments later O’Neil got down the right and put an inviting ball in for Noone, coming in off the opposite wing, to which he narrowly failed to connect.

Without the dynamism of Harvey Barnes, who returned from a loan spell to Leicester last week, West Brom seemed content to canter along with their one-goal lead intact, lacking any real urgency in their play in the early stages of the second half.

Parkinson has not always been able to strike the best balance between attack and defence, particularly in front of his own fans. Here, it was much better for long spells of the game, Donaldson running himself into a standstill and setting the tone on a night when it would have been easy to retreat into a shell.

Unfortunately, when Wanderers were looking for a way back into the game, Josh Magennis came off the bench to replace his fellow striker, rather than join him.

For all that effort the big chance Bolton’s fans longed for just never materialised. And when Parkinson’s thoughts must have been turning towards pushing more men forward, the Baggies sliced through for the second.

Rodriguez was creator this time, his straight ball catching Hobbs flat and allowing first-half sub Sam Field to dart in and stab the ball past Ben Alnwick.

Life fizzled out of the game. Magennis headed straight at Johnstone late on from a corner but, in truth, the tie was as good as over once the second goal had hit the back of the net.

There was an opportunity for midfielder Joe Pritchard to come off the bench to make his senior bow for the club - an opportunity he seized readily with some ncie touches in the final few minutes.

Bigger challenges await Wanderers at the University of Bolton Stadium, not least next week’s visit of Reading.

But surely the club must first address the feeling of mass disconnect which led to this whole sorry mess in the first place.

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