Date: 25th March 2012 at 11:21am
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Yesterday, at approximately 3pm, amidst all the scarves, chants and mosaics, a football match broke out at the Reebok Stadium. On a normal day in a normal week, it would have been a six pointer between two local rivals battling against each other for Premier League survival. But it wasn’t a normal day in a normal week.

Yesterday was Muamba Day.

A lot has been made during the week about how the club have gone about their business after the near tragic events at White Hart Lane last Saturday. Whilst it would be wrong to suggest that any other club would not have done exactly the same things as Bolton did yesterday, the fact that it was and we did, and did it so well, should have everyone associated with Bolton Wanderers waking up with a smile on their face.

In effect, this was a no win game for Blackburn Rovers. Sure, if they had physically won the game they would have had three points and be 75% certain of survival. But if that had happened they would have been the villain of the piece, twirling a moustache as they made their way back up the A666 like some Lancashire version of the Hooded Claw. While there is full respect and thanks to the Blackburn players, staff and fans for they way they acted yesterday, as it was they came, saw, sang, hugged and were then rolled over by a Bolton team who definitely, absolutely, on this day of all days, did not want to lose.

When it comes to ‘Do It For (insert person’s name here)’, Bolton have not got a good recent history. ‘Do It For Nat’ turned into a 4-0 spanking by Chelsea. The second chance to ‘Do It For Nat’ was the semi final against Stoke. When it came to ‘Do It For Speedo’, the team turned up and then rolled over for a poor Aston Villa side. So, despite all the talk about ‘doing it for Fab’, there was the very real chance that a resurgent Blackburn team would have sent us the same way as the three other teams, especially now we have been shorn of our most combative defensive midfielder.

Reports before the game had suggested that some players would not be able to play the game, so soon after they had witnessed what they did seven days previously. As it was, the eleven men who had turned over QPR stood up and were counted and as they made their way onto the pitch, Fabrice Muamba’s name was chanted by both home and away fans and the mosaic was lofted up in the Lofthouse lower. A huddle was formed shortly before kick off and each player knew what they had to do.

To say that the start of the game was short on quality would be to do it a service it doesn’t deserve, but that is only to be expected in a game of such importance. Both Miyaichi and Petrov were causing problems down the wings and N’Gog was doing his usual hold it up and chase it, but the basic lack of any sort of finishing quality that has plagued us all season was evident. As for Blackburn, they should have had a penalty when Hoilett was tripped by Steinsson, leaving his leg out for the Blackburn player to fall over. Maybe it was the fact that the ball was running away from Hoilett or the dramatic tumble that Mark Davies took over him as he fell, but Andre Marriner wafted the claims away. For the second home game in a row at that end, Bolton had got away with something.

And they quickly took advantage, through the unlikely source of David Wheater. A Martin Petrov corner found its way back to him and his second attempt, deflecting off a Blackburn head (who? who cares?), found its way to Wheater to stoop the ball into the net.

One quickly became two, a Miyaichi corner evading the front post crew and Wheater again headed the ball into the net. Where the first one was placed, this one cannoned in. Bolton are frail at set pieces, but Blackburn even more so and we took full advantage. Chintastic.

Naturally, the second half brought its own issues, not least how the patented Owen Coyle team talk would have changed due to the weeks events. It obviously had, as it took longer than five minutes for the opposition to pull a goal back after Morten Gamst Pedersen’s long throw was dealt with by exactly no one and Steven N’Zonzi ambled in to head the ball over Bogdan.

It would be unfair to criticise any Bolton player yesterday, even Dazza Prazza performed well, but there were times that Bogdan, who said last week that he had been learning from Jussi, looked like he had learnt too much, coming for crosses when he didn’t need to and not coming when he did. Maybe the occassion got too much for him. Luckily he was up against a Blackburn attack that, besides Yakubu, can’t score goals.

Shortly before Nzonzi scored, N’Gog had to chance to put the game to bed but headed the ball narrowly over from Petrov’s cross, whilst shortly after Mark Davies had the chance to do the same but headed narrowly wide with the goal gaping. This was typical Bolton. Luckily, it was also typical Blackburn, who huffed and puffed but never really looked like breaking Bolton down a second time.

At the end, Muamba’s name was chanted out, as it had been during the whole game. In a huddle in the middle of the pitch, the reanointed St Owen Coyle brought his team together in a huddle, right hand man SKD at his side. A man resembling Jonathan Tobin ran into shot and was taken into the middle of the huddle. Players, coaches, manager, doctor and mascot all shared a moment before applauding all four sides of the ground.

You feel sure that in a hospital bed two hundred miles away, a young male raised a smile.

 

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