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It was a sad day at The City Ground for Bolton Wanderers supporters, as Neil Lennon’s squad looked awful and former manager Dougie Freedman walked away with an easy three points.
Things were looking bad from the start going into Saturday’s match. The injury list was shrinking a bit, as Matt Mills returned to the starting XI and Emile Heskey was on the bench, but the trip came too soon for Craig Davies. Kevin McNaughton is fit though, as far as we know. So is Josh Vela, who started in the midfield. Despite that, Neil Lennon decided to start Tim Ream at right back, and give young midfielder Filip Twardzik his full debut at left back. I’m not in close contact with Dougie Freedman at the moment, but I can only imagine that he and his Nottingham Forest side were a confident bunch when they saw today’s team sheets.
It didn’t take long for disaster to strike. Chris Burke scored in the ninth minute. Twardzik slipped, and even though Andy Lonergan managed to save the first shot, Burke easily scored on the rebound. Michail Antonio scored Forest’s second in the 18th minute, running past three Bolton defenders before finishing well past Lonergan. There was also a worrisome moment in the 34th minute when Tim Ream went down after colliding with the goal post. He was stretchered off the pitch and replaced by Dean Moxey. By this point winger Liam Feeney had moved to right back.
The away side were lucky not to be down by even more when they were thrown a lifeline. Zach Clough was taken down in the box by Danny Fox. Adam Le Fondre scored the penalty to make it 2-1 and give the traveling supporters some hope. That hope didn’t last long.
Twardzik picked up an injury in the first half and had to be replaced at halftime by Emile Heskey. Many have mentioned that they would like to see what Le Fondre could do working with a target man like Heskey. Unfortunately, we only got to see this partnership for about 3 minutes. Mills fouled Antonio, just as he had three minutes before the end of the first half, and Mills received a yellow card, just as he had three minutes before the end of the first half. For this of you keeping track at home, that’s two yellow cards, which equals one red card, which equals ten men on the pitch for Bolton Wanderers.
Neil Lennon was enjoying his positional experimentations so much that he put Heskey at centre back, partnered with Dorian Derive for the remainder of the match. Unsurprisingly, the defending that followed was a Shakespearian special, comedy and tragedy. The comedy was Heskey trying to defend. The tragedy was Lonergan giving away a penalty, and seriously injuring himself in the process. It took six minutes for him to be stretchered off the pitch, and rumors were flying that he had broken his neck. There have been some reports on Twitter that his CT scan came back negative, but the club have not confirmed anything.
Anyhow, Ben Amos made his debut for the club in this unfortunate situation, and was unable to stop Henri Lansbury scoring the penalty. Burke later added a second to finish the scoring.
To sum up, Bolton were terrible. The team sheet was a mess, players were in unfamiliar positions, there was a lack of effort, tactics seemed haphazard and poorly communicated, and as usual the defending was atrocious. All in all, it was like Dougie was back in charge. And now we have a quick turnaround trip to Middlesborough on Tuesday, with several new absentees through injury and suspension. The praise was heaped on Neil Lennon when he first arrived, now it is time to earn it.