Things have been a bit dire around the Reebok of late, compounded by one of the worst matches of the season just 3 days ago. But in typical style, Bolton have come back, and they've come back well.
Bolton Wanderers are anything but predictable, and after several dismal results they've thrown fed up fans a bone. Not only did the Men in White comeback after going behind, they played competently and really didn't look like conceding for most of the match. This was exactly the performance Bolton needed to put out right now.
Bolton began the match in what is quickly becoming the traditional fashion: by conceding early. In the 11th minute, perennial danger man Nikola Zigic lost his markers to head a Chris Burke cross powerfully past Adam Bogdan. However to buck the trend of past games, instead of this quieting the Trotter's ranks, it led to a period of productive play from Bolton. Methodically, the team forced a couple corners, admittedly none of which particularly troubled Jack Butland. In the 27th minute, Chris Eagles sent a shot right across the face of goal, but no one managed to put it in.
The break-through came on the 27th minute, as Bolton's careful build up paid off. Another header brought Bolton level, as the tall Spaniard Marcos Alonso made good contact with Tyrone Mears' cross. Just 6 minutes later, Chung-Yong Lee gave Bolton the lead for the first time, displaying skills he hasn't shown since coming back from his long injury lay out. He avoided a couple of challenges in the box before rounding the keeper and shooting from an acute angle to make the score 2-1 to the good guys.
It was all Bolton after that, and Kevin Davies forced Butland to parry away a dangerous shot. The halftime stats revealed how comfortable Bolton were, as the home side lead the number of shots by 6-1, and shots on target by 5-1. The Trotters started the second half with a quiet dominance. They weren't putting Butland in danger much, but retained possession and steadily built up attacks.
Even when Birmingham were allowed a foray forward, by and large the defense performed it's job comfortably, something that certainly hasn't been the norm this season. Adam Bogdan was forced into a few saves, by Hayden Mullins and Burke, but in general they were easy for the Hungarian.
In the 79th minute, Keith Andrews put the game to bed, and further solidified his position as penalty taker for the Wanderers. Steven Caldwell handled inside his own box, and once again Andrews stepped up to the spot. He side footed it into the top corner, leaving Butland absolutely no chance and taking Bolton out of the realm of negative goal difference.
Birmingham tried to launch come backs several times, but these chances were dampened when in the 88th minute Zigic was sent off for receiving 2 yellow cards in a minute, the first offense for unsporting behavior, the second for a barge on Tim Ream. After going down to ten men and losing one of their most dangerous players, it was clearly all over for the visitors.
And so Bolton go into what will undoubtedly be a challenging game at Elland Road off the back of a comprehensive win. Today, the Trotters displayed many things they've lacked in previous games: a confident and able defense, comprehensive possession, and the ability to score in a variety of ways. This was an excellent performance from a side that clearly has the ability. Now all they're lacking is consistency. Roll on Leeds United...