It wasn’t easy or relaxing to watch but Bolton got a vital win yesterday to start the Christmas period with a 3-2 success over second-bottom Southend.
Keith Hill went with a tweaked side – Ronan Darcy would impress behind Daryl Murphy, while Thibaud Verlinden was given a start. Liam Bridcutt played with Jake Wright in defence, while Adam Chicksen was given a rest, Josh Earl moving along to left back.
For half an hour though, we were poor. Absolutely awful against a side that had just picked up seven points all season. When left back Harry Lennon got a free header from a set-piece, and had us 1-0 down, you couldn’t even pretend it was against the run of play or anything. The atmosphere around the UniBol was hardly Christmassy, Lennon won’t be enjoying the festive period as much he would like either, as minutes after scoring he suffered a suspected broken leg.
We then improved a bit, and got some luck which helped us to turn the game. Joe Dodoo equalised despite the fact he may have touched the ball with his hand prior to volleying home, while the flag went up before Luke Murphy scored a volley of his own to turn the game on its head – although Southend had a good period of time to win the ball back between flag and goal.
We were much better and composed in the second half, for the large part at least, Daryl Murphy capitalised on a Timothee Dieng slip-up to find himself clean through and make it six goals in his last seven appearances, and from there it should have been plain-sailing. It never is though, and Dieng would make amends by scoring from yet another set-piece to make it a very nervy last 10 minutes. Thankfully, we held out.
Keith Hill was happy, but said game management can improve. Set-pieces were the obvious problem, Away from that, Southend only tested the goal once. A makeshift defence hasn’t helped, it was encouraging to see Liam Edwards back on the bench, but I do think we miss Jack Hobbs. Until his injury, we looked like a defensively solid team in the first month or so under Keith Hill. Since his last appearance, against Blackpool, we’ve kept just two clean sheets.
But Bolton have won, and next it’s a reunion with Phil Parkinson, as Wanderers travel to Sunderland on Boxing Day.