"I've always been known for my goal scoring..." - Paul Thomas
It was a spectacular match for the neutral but a nightmare for Bolton Wanderers supporters, who rode an emotional roller coaster for 94 wild minutes. Who was the best amongst the players on the losing side? One thing is for sure, it wasn't Zat Knight.
There is no question that goals have been up in England over the last few seasons. This has extended through several divisions, leading to a great deal of 5-4 thrillers on any given Saturday. Sometimes those thrillers ensue because of great finishing and superior skill. This was not the case at London Road yesterday. The defending was dire. Beyond dire, if there is such a thing. Just a horrible comedy of errors.
All that aside, despite their absolutely shameful start, and inexplicable capitulation halfway through the second half, Bolton Wanderers did end up fighting back several times and having a realistic chance at getting something out of the game very late on. In our selection of Man of the Match today, we are starting with two caveats. First, no one from the back four is eligible. That defensive performance was just disgraceful. We know there will be at least one change, as Stephen Warnock has gone back to Aston Villa, and I hope there will be more. Second, for the purposes of this award, we are going to count the three substitutes as essentially one player.
Kevin Davies played from the start, and put in a fairly Kevin Davies-ish performance. Won some headers, helped out defending (to no avail), set up a goal, and got a (fifth) yellow card. For a lot of people, the captain almost starts each game as the default MOTM, but I don't think he did enough today. Truth is, if David Ngog had been available, Davies probably would not have started this match.
Dougie Freedman waited too long to make the substitutions. When he did make them, they worked brilliantly on the attacking end, but Bolton did go on to concede two more goals after that point. I'm not saying Bolton would have won the match if the changes had been made at halftime (or before), but I think even Dougie would admit at least one of the changes (probably Benik Afobe for Jacob Butterfield) should have been made at the break.
The timing aside, all three of the substitutes were spectacular when they arrived. Afobe showed the pace and trickery we know he has but seldom see. He was very strong on the ball in winning the second penalty, and finished well for the Trotter's third goal. Marvin Sordell has been much-maligned this week, but he also looked very lively in the second half. Though he was the only sub not to score a goal, Sordell's pace and movement opened things up for his teammates and he played a big part in Wanderers dominance of possession in the second half. Performances like this do make one wonder why the England under-21 star has featured so sparingly this season.
Martin Petrov got less time than the other subs, but arguably had the biggest impact. From the moment he cam eon he was running at defenders, whipping in crosses, and generally creating havoc on the left side, as he usually does when he is on the pitch. Afobe's goal came from his corner (he is still our most accurate supplier on set pieces). His aggressive run and composed finish made the final minutes tortuous for Posh supporters. Why he is not in the starting XI more often is certainly a valid question, but one for another day.
Adam Bogdan recieved little to no help from his defenders today, but he didn't give them any help either. He was definitely at fault for the final goal, and it was the second time he was beaten at his near post Saturday afternoon. He probably could have done better on the third and fourth goals as well, though as I said, his defenders gave him no help. Bogdan is the sort of Anti-MOTM today, and should be dropped soon if his poor performances continue.
During the first half, the Bolton players weren't at the races. They were woefully unprepared for the unusual formation Peterborough played as well as the conditions of the pitch. That's on Dougie Freedman. Preparation is the manager's responsibility. There was one exception to this. Keith Andrews was the only Bolton player showing any fight in the opening 45 minutes. He was putting in tackles, winning back possession, pressuring Posh up the pitch, as well as trying to hold the ball and create some semblance of attack for the Wanderers. Not to mention his two goals, both from penalties. Martin Petrov is our primary penalty taker, and he excels at it, but when he ha snot been on the pitch, Bolton basically haven't converted. Andrews solved that longstanding problem, and did it with aplomb. For that, he wins The Lion of Vienna Suite Man of The Match Award for this week.