Date: 28th March 2012 at 10:01am
Written by:

Compared to the previous inhabitant of his office, Owen Coyle takes the FA Cup seriously. Whilst we may not have graced the Wembley turf in a final since 1958, under the present manager we have managed to put some sort of run together in each season since you know who was given the you know what. But in none of the seasons preceding this one could last night’s defeat be greeted with a feeling of ‘Well. That was nice.’

In any other season, the fact that Spurs were allowed twenty nine shots overall, nineteen of them on target, whilst Bolton did not muster a single shot, let alone one on target, in the first half would have been met with howls of derision, that players were not giving a flying whatnot and that the managers inability to see that Klasnic was having one of THOSE games early on was costing us dearly. We could have had these, the fans would be muttering as they left White Hart Lane.

That yesterday’s game was not a normal game has quite rightly dulled those points. A team that was performing well for the forty one minutes that preceded Fabrice Muamba’s collapse was supplemented by Mark Davies, taking Muamba’s place, with Chris Eagles replacing Martin Petrov, presumably to give the Bulgarian a bit of a rest after he has put his best run of form in a white, orange, red and blue shirt together in recent weeks.

Now, I’ll admit, the necessity to be in work for the first fifteen minutes and then a fifteen minute drive home meant that I didn’t see most of the first half. However, thanks to the wonders of modern technology (first the internet and then this wonderful invention called the wireless) I was well aware of what was going on. And what was going on was that Spurs were attacking, Bolton were defending and Adam Bogdan was throwing his not inconsiderable frame around the Bolton goal to stifle anything Spurs could throw at him. Twice, in some cases.

Bogdan had a shaky game on Saturday, but if you can win whilst your goalkeeper is playing badly that is not such a bad thing. Last night, Bogdan probably called an end to Jussi Jaaskelainen’s Bolton career. Nineteen shots on target, and of those nineteen it seemed like he repelled twice as many. It was a performance of immense resilience and it could have been more if not for the last ditch defending that sometimes went on in front of him.

Now, it will not come as any great surprise to our regular readers that I am not the biggest fan of one Mr D. Pratley esq. However, over the past couple of games, he has started to actually put performances together. With most of our central midfield out of action for at least the rest of the season, as I said in yesterday’s match preview there is a need for Pratley to step up. So it came as no great surprise to me to hear him first make a tackle on Gareth Bale, described by Alan Gowling as taking one for the team, then be stretchered off with a gash in his leg that could keep him out for between two to six weeks. Just when we need him, the gets injured. Sod’s law. As he left the field, PC Howie rightly brandished the yellow card to the departing player.

(It was at this point that, sat at some traffic lights, I tweeted the following: ‘You spend all season praying for Pratley to get injured…….’, meaning that now that we actually do need him he won’t be available. This was replied to by another Bolton fan who told me ‘don’t pretend to he a wanderer if you can’t support the team #muppet’. I don’t think I need to go around proving my credentials as a Bolton fan but if you can’t have a bit of harmless banter in the middle of a game then what is the world coming to? Part of being a Bolton fan is to recognise our obvious frailties and if we can do it with a wry smile and a bit of mild sarcasm then so much the better. I prefer it to calling the players and manager sweary names through gritted teeth.)

Anyway, back to the game. Pratley was replaced by Tim Ream and Spurs continued their bombardment of the Bolton goal. The teams turned around and the bombardment continued. St Owen’s half time team talk obviously worked the usual wonders as just one minute into the second half, Sam Ricketts gave away a free kick at the edge of the area. Eyes closed, head hidden behind a cushion, I heard the dull rattle of the crossbar. Crisis averted.

And so it continued and as the game reached it’s final twenty minutes it began to look as though Bolton were going to pull it off, despite having spent the vast majority of the game in our own half. With SKD lining up on the sideline to take the place of the flaccid Klasnic, Bogdan tipped another shot away. From the resulting corner from Van der Vaart, the ball flew into the six yard box, over the head of the tallest defender in the Premier League and right onto the forehead of Ryan Nelsen who diverted it back across the goal and into the net.

Straight away, Boyata was sacrificed with Klasnic remaining on and joined by SKD. And, almost as quickly, Spurs scored again, a Bolton attack quickly breaking down, Adebayor flicking the ball to Defoe who passed the ball into an area as large you like where the central defence should have been for Bale to take it on and pass the ball past Bogdan into the net. 2-0 and pretty much game over.

It says a lot for Bolton that they raised their game as Spurs decided that the game was, indeed, over and when Klasnic crossed for SKD to put the ball beyond Cudicini, it did seem, just for a few sweet seconds, that a rescue mission was on. That was until Louis Saha received the ball at the edge of the area and hit a rasping shot past Bogdan.

In the end, Spurs deserved their win and for the plain fact that we all now love each other, will hopefully go on to the final and win the competition, not just for themselves but also for Muamba. As for Bolton, we now have to go to Wolves missing another central midfielder, although Tim Ream played well enough in that position. The worry is that this will now mean the return of Zat Knight in central defence. So, as the lesser of two evils, get well soon, Darren.

Amazingly, we need you.



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