Date: 12th March 2012 at 9:49am
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Long after the game had finished on Saturday afternoon, when the stewards had packed everyone away, the stands had been sweeped and Lofty the Lion’s costume was safely packed away into its oversize case, still the talk was of nothing else. In a game full of contentious issues, amongst the Bolton Wanderers fans there was only one thing on their mind.

Just what the hell do we do with Darren Pratley now?

Like some oversize salmon flapping in the wind, he had thrown his hands in the air as Tim Ream had received the ball on the left side of the area. Unmarked and two yards from goal, a dyspeptic, one legged elephant with alzheimers would have had trouble missing his header, but fair play to the most unwanted player that Bolton have had this side of Gerald Cid, he put himself in the position to score.

And, while we are being fair to Pratley, this was by far his best game in a blue, white, red and orange shirt. He still ran into places that most people wouldn’t, his own team mates seemed to have a reluctance to pass to him and when he did pass to people his completion rate was abysmal. By the time he was substituted in the eightieth minute he was one foul away from a red card, but small acorns and all that. This was by far and away his best performance and, as Yazz said, the only way is up.

As for the rest of the game, one can only hope that OC doesn’t think that a late goal by a substitute after changing to a 4-4-2 means that that is the way to go. There is a very real possibility that if Clint Hill’s goal that wasn’t had been allowed to stand, we may be talking today about staring down the barrel of a gun, five points from safety. Luckily, the best assistant referee in the league was waiting for her turn to get decisions right at Swansea yesterday, whereas Bob Pollock, a name that you couldn’t make up, should have seen the ball go two feet over the line from his position, despite two players being in the way.

From our vantage point high up in the West Stand, where Mrs X Snr now prefers to sit as there is a) no swearing b) hot water in the ladies and c) paper towels in the ladies, it happened so quickly, you couldn’t really tell what had happened. Hill’s header had appeared to be on target but all I saw was the ball hit the bar from a Bogdan reflex save. Luckily, that high up in the stand, you sit next to the assorted journalists (Marc Iles was sporting a pretty natty flat cap) and a quick look at the TV screens that they have access to showed the ball was over the line.

Still, never mind. OC may not agree that things even themselves out over time, but if that non goal is the difference between us staying up and QPR going down come mid May then it will be the karma that we have been waiting for since Gerry Taggart’s non goal against Everton in 1997. And if it sends down panto villain and general villain Joey Barton and his team of over paid chumps, then so much the better.

As for the game itself in general, it was a pretty even tussle between two teams showing obvious signs of nervousness. Playing five across the midfield, Bolton still had a Fabrice Muamba sized hole in the middle that meant that as the game progressed, QPR grew into it. Bolton had the better of the early part of the game with Martin Petrov, returning to the starting line up, putting in a few crosses and David N’Gog holding the ball up well and fashioning a couple of chances for himself.

There has been much made of Ryo Miyaichi’s game on the right wing, with a few outlets naming him man of the match. They must have been watching a different game to me. Time after time he tried to take on the left back, either with skill or by knocking the ball past him, and time and again Traore beat him. Miyaichi will be a quality player, but he should have figured out by the third time he tried to knock the ball past the Senegalese international that he is no slouch and it wasn’t until Traore was replaced with Taiwo that Miyaichi finally got hold of the game. His control of the ball and pass to Klasnic for the second goal was sublime but one pass does not a man of the match make. A question of too many people buying into the hype too soon?

As for Klasnic, what can you say. He’s spent quite a lot of this season on the bench, as he has done for most of his Bolton career, but put the ball at his feet with a goalkeeper to beat and there are few better in the league. His touch and shot to put the ball past Kenny was pure Klasnic. More of an impact sub than SKD, if OC is tempted to return to a 4-4-2 then it has to be the Croatian that lines up alongside N’Gog. Hopefully, the fact that QPR were also chasing the game and had left themselves open should put the brakes on any idea of changing the formation.

When the dust settled, Bolton were out of the relegation zone for the first time in a month. Regardless of how well they appear to be playing, Wigan find themselves further away from safety than ever and with a run in that includes five of the top six, QPR need a major slice of luck to stay up. That leaves us, Blackburn and Wolves and with Bolton facing both of them in a seven day period at the end of the month, by the time April Fool’s Day rolls around we should have a clearer idea of whether the joke will be on us or not by the end of the season.



 

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