COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
In a dire first half, we saw Bolton start the stronger but soon showed they had no cutting edge and the best they could offer was a couple of shots that resembled backpasses. We then came into it and we proved we had no cutting edge either, which set the tone for the half if not the match. Highlights (if you can call them that) were Saha scoring only to hear the whistle for an offence by the Yak who had put him in with a great back-heel. What the offence was eluded me...
The Yak got a cross in that was just too high for Fellaini. Lescott carded for a lunge and in keeping with the play so far the free-kick was booted across goal and out for a goal-kick. Saha had a sweet shot but the keeper didn't have to move to gather it. Neville got a good cross in but Fellaini missed a clear headed chance.
Right on half-time Osman was outmuscled outside the box and pulled the shirt and from the resultant free-kick the half ended with the ball merely delivered into Howard's arms from a dangerous position.
Second half and no changes made when most seemed to think Cahill for Saha would be a good move. The second half brought more of the same. They attacked, we attacked but the result was the same at both ends — underworked keepers.
On the hour mark, the manager gave in and made a change, it was one that really surprised me as it was Yak trudging off and the out of sorts Saha left on... anyway Cahill got on which pleased many but changed little as we still gave the ball away far to easily in that final third.
With the game drifting along in this fashion, the manager decided to give Big Vic a go for ten minutes in place of Saha and he had a header wide when well placed. Then Fellaini appeared to be held down in the box at our end, "Penalty!!!" roared the faithful... "Play on," said the ref.
So a boring goalless draw it was to be as two minutes only of added time was announced. This seemed to act as a transformative signal for those in Blue as we saw the best passage of play in the entire game that had everything the preceding ninety hadn't: Thoughtful build up on the deck, craft and guile in the final third, culminating in a rare cross of quality which found Fellaini unmarked in the six-yard box, he made no mistake via a post.
The roof came off and the players went to our fans to share the delight. I was bemused to see the ref. eventually show the scorer a yellow card yet the players hadn't come in to the crowd and he didn't take his shirt off.
Before the final whistle we had time to see Big Vic miss a one-on-one and Rodwell come on for Arteta. Now that's what I call an action-packed two minutes.
Overall a poor game, not helped by the conditions, and I thought we looked a bit leggy after Saturday's exertions. Bolton looked a team in trouble and, although we were not good on the night, we do have a better outlook than them if only we can get some form and consistency.
This game did nothing to alter my view that we need a good ball-winning holding midfielder as well as the manager having something of a dilemma in how to incorporate both Cahill and Fellaini if he is to persist with 4-4-2.
Man of the match? I will let Jags and Fellaini fight for that one. Fulham Saturday and I am sure that will be quite a different game... and anyway — doesn't the home team always win in this fixture???
See you Sat. UP THE BLUES
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