A Plague of O'Briens
Date: Thursday 23rd August 2007Bolton reserves began their defence of the league title with a 1-1 draw with Manchester City at Leyland, thanks to a late and spectacular strike from Danny Guthrie. Ricardo Gardner and Joey O’Brien were returning from injury and new signing Andy O’Brien had his first outing in a Bolton shirt. Some defenders make you feel reassured the moment they step onto the pitch. Andy O’Brien isn’t one of them. Yet that snap judgement is harsh. He did little wrong, winning virtually everything in the air and showed a sound positional sense, which gives him two advantages over Gerald Cid. In addition he marshalled the defence well, a skill that is sorely lacking at first team level. City started the better and could have gone ahead when Ashley Grimes hit the bar after Ali Al Habsi scuffed a straightforward clearance as he did the some moments later. After looking like a potential stand in for Jussi Jasskelainen for much of last season, the big Omani seems cursed with a case of the jitters just lately. Joey O’Brien made an inauspicious start, hiking his first kick into touch. In truth things didn’t get any better for the forty-five minutes that he played. It’s great to see him back after a career threatening injury, but he looked lightweight and out of touch. It’ll be some time before he troubles Nicky Hunt. After the initial period Bolton began to dominate but were let down by the atrocious quality of the final ball. They should have gone ahead on fifteen minutes when a defensive mix up let in Leslie Thompson. Give credit to the City ‘keeper for making the best of a bad situation but the young striker should have scored instead of poking his effort over the bar. Ricardo Gardner started up front on the left side of a 4-3-3 and seemed to enjoy the experience. Bolton had another chance to open the scoring just before half time when his excellent angled cross field pass found Temitope Obadeyi, but his effort hit the post. Gardner and O’Brien went off at half-time and were replaced by Rob Sissons and Nathan Wolfe. James Sinclair switched from midfield to right back and acquitted himself well. He didn’t have to do that much defending, but that was largely due to his improved positional play and some neat interceptions. His pre-season first team games have been of benefit. On the other side of defence, Scott Jamieson had a good game, especially in the first half. He’s looked promising for a couple of seasons and is now settling into the left-back role. This term he looks stronger, faster and has the skills to contribute as the team goes forward. Continue that progress and the future looks bright. The Wanderers started better in the second half, thanks mainly to good work by Sissons on the right of midfield, so it was a disappointment that City opened the scoring. Ashley Grimes’s shot was well saved by Al Habsi, but he couldn’t hold onto the ball and the rebound was despatched. After this Bolton lost composure and the game was in its advanced stages before it was regained. Wanderers had the best of the possession and started promising moves which broke down because of a lack of movement or poor quality in the final third. Leslie Thompson had a disappointingly quiet game, after terrifying City the week before, but the service to him wasn’t up to much. Give him a simple pass when he’s facing goal and let the boy do his stuff. Rocket science it ain’t. Just when things were looking grim for the Whites, Guthrie let fly with a stunning strike from thirty yards and the scores were level. The midfielder had a mixed game. I’ve long suspected that the comparisons to Steven Gerrard were more due to Scouse hyperbole rather than any realistic assessment of his abilities, and so it proved. In the early stages he reminded me more of David Thompson, such was his habit of entering into rash tackles which endangered both himself and his opponent. He’s a yellow card waiting to happen. Now and then there’s a burst of quality, a pass that shows vision, an unlikely interception, or a challenge that succeeds against the odds, but there’s a lot in his game that’s lacking. The word ‘erratic’ springs to mind. Ultimately, a frustrating night from a spectator’s point of view. Bolton flattered to deceive and will continue to do so, until play in the final third improves. There’s a lot of quality amongst the youngsters at Leyland. All they need is the belief to let it show.