A right mess.
It's been a rough string of games for the Men in White, and rather unsurprisingly, the results have shown this. Today's loss to Manchester City was Bolton's 4th straight loss in the league, two of those being to Norwich and Wigan. While I wasn't expecting against league leaders on their turf, especially considering that this win extended their streak to 19 wins in a row at home, but I did expect some fight from the boys. While this was not even close to the worst result of the season, nor the worst performance, it wasn't easy to watch and it didn't raise much hope for the future.
Manchester City started the game with intent, and could have easily had 3 goals in the first 3 minutes. Mario Balotelli hit the post in the first minute, and Samir Nasri's shot off the rebound was barely saved by Adam Bogdan. The game didn't improve much for the beleaguered Hungarian, who put in an admirable shift, surely cementing his place between the posts. City continued to easily pass around the Bolton defense, and really it was a wonder that the visitors didn't concede until the 23rd minute. Gael Clichy's shot from outside the box took a massive deflection off Gretar Steinsson, giving Bogdan no chance.
After that, Bolton did put together more chances. Mark Davies did well to connect with Nigel Reo-Coker who made a nice run up the right wing, but his cross into the box was just too far for David Ngog. Reo-Coker had a very solid game, looking a strength in the midfield, a usual weakness for Bolton this season. Owen Coyle will have been relieved that the whistle for halftime blew and Bolton were only one goal down.
Just a minute after the restart the defense was caught out by Balotelli, who whizzed past them forcing Bogdan into another heroic save. This incident was indicative of Zat Knight's performance in general, while his partner David Wheater did not exactly impress. In spite of this, at 1-0 a goal and a chance to get back into the game did not look impossible. Darren Pratley had an impressive shot off the crossbar, although it was unfortunately his own crossbar. Balotelli put any Boltonian hopes to bed when he scored the goal he'd been threatening to all game in the 69th minute. Both Wheater and Knight made mistakes in the lead up to the goal and Balotelli was not messing around when he fired from close range.
In spite of the fact that the lineup clearly wasn't working, Coyle did not make a substitution until the 87th minute, taking Pratley off for Fabrice Muamba, arguably the way it should have been since kickoff. Ryo Miyaichi had some encouraging runs and on a different day, he might have scored. In the end, Bolton were rather lucky to get away with only conceding two goals.
As I said, today could have been much worse, but there comes a point when that is little comfort. We will not be able to rely on having 3 competent players- Bogdan, Miyaichi, Reo-Coker- on the pitch for the rest of the season. There is little to no sign of any tactical thought from the Bolton bench, and when a substitution is made, it's usually too late. The fulltime whistle once again felt like the signal ending purgatory. And it's starting to seem less and less likely that we will stay in the heaven of the Premiership.