Kings of the County
Date: Thursday 3rd January 2008Wasn’t pretty was it? But then again it didn’t need to be, as Megson proved that he, like Big Sam before him, is a lucky manager as a late late slightly-offside goal from Stelios moved his Wanderers up to the heady heights of 14th position.
As a natural pessimist, the line on the fixture list reading ‘Derby (H)’ has always led to the feeling of dread rather than anticipation for myself, a feeling not helped by the fact that Derby appeared to have been slowly turning a corner under Paul Jewell, with a string of decent performances against Newcastle, Liverpool and Blackburn in recent weeks, without getting the points they probably deserved. Surely the Super Whites wouldn’t become the ex Wigan man's first scalp as Derby manager I told myself, but as with everything Bolton, there was still a doubt inside me that refused to underestimate our sides’ propensity for cocking things up royal.
And if there were any lingering feelings of hope inside me, waiting for a cricket score, they were soon dispelled as County nearly scored with the game's first attack, as Craig Fagan left Meite for dead, but couldn’t find the finish to beat Jaaskelainen.
All in all it was a pretty rotten first half for a Bolton fan, as for all our possession, the Derby defence was rarely troubled, in the most part due to Bolton's much maligned, but recently improved midfield trio. With the utterly abject pairing of Nolan and Campo, complimented by Guthrie who, for all his hustle and bustle, had little end product to show for it, failed to provide any kind of decent service for the frontmen. And save for a Meite header which just curled wide, and a beautifully executed volley from Nolan, all the half chances fell to Derby, with the away side having a flurry of near misses as the half drew to a close.
Megson clearly agreed with my assessment, as he chose to make a half time substitution in the hope of changing Bolton fortunes, as Davies, who’d had an utterly dreadful game and was lucky to stay on the field, made way for Christian Wilhelmsson. The flying Swede has many critics within the Bolton support, but I felt he went some way to showing why he has played for Europe's elite in the second half, as he added another dimension to the Wanderers attack, scaring the life out of the Derby defence with his direct running at pace. Yes his final ball needs working on, but I think he showed enough to warrant persevering with him at least until his loan runs out at the end of the season.
The second half went much the way of the first, as for all Bolton's pressure they failed to really break Derby down, although chances were easier to come by, notably Anelka exploding into life with a wonderful snap shot which forced a smart save from Price in the County goal. But that goal never really looked like coming until super sub Stelios pounced in the 90th minute. In truth a draw would’ve been harsh on us, after dominating the vast majority of the game, but there was more than an element of luck in Jaaskelainen's punt upfield catching out the away side's defence, but that being said, there was no luck whatsoever involved in the Greek's finish, as he took the chance brilliantly to wrap up all three points for the Whites.
Jaaskelainen – 7 – Two really good saves in each half, amazingly got an assist for the goal.
Gardner – 4 – Gave the ball away time and time again, never looked comfortable.
J. O’Brien – 5 – Inept going forward, was reasonably solid defensively.
A. O’Brien – 7 – Steady as always, and marshalled the whole team from front to back.
Meite – 5 – Classic display from Meite, as moments of great defending came interspersed with moments of sheer comedy. However we will surely miss his pace at the back when he departs next week.
Guthrie – 6 – His display summed up that of the entire team. Lots of effort, no end product.
Nolan – 4 – Was awful, but the reaction he got when he was taken off was utterly disgraceful, and anyone who did cheer has no business being anywhere near the ground. No he didn’t play well, but he certainly didn’t deserve that reaction after everything he’s done for this club. And it just furthers my view that the fans this club have do more to hinder the club than they do to actually support it, with the poor attendances and constant barracking of players.
Diouf – 6 – Showed quality touches and nearly scored the opener late on in the first half with a good piece of skill to get through on goal.
Davies – 4 – Deserved to be substituted, one of the poorest performances I’ve seen in a while from the Bolton talisman.
Anelka – 6 – Quiet, but nearly proved a match winner once again with a great shot from outside the area.