When it comes to music I’m a hard-rock loving, progressive metal adoring ex-longhair with a soft spot for The Faces, David Bowie and Manic Street Preachers. One genre I cannot abide is American soft rock, with one exception: the 6:30 of sheer beauty that is the Eagles’ Hotel California. After the Bolton match a line from that song stuck in my head:
They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.
Well that surely sums up our performance on Saturday. We were slick, committed and had the Trotters shaking for the whole opening 45. We were a bit over-elaborate but totally in command.
Chances were admittedly few and far between, although only Moritz Leitner will know how he shot wide when offered the clearest site of goal he will ever see.
James Maddison hit a marvellous effort that hit the right-hand post and then set up Nelson Oliveira for a strike but ex-Canary loanee keeper Ben Alnwick was equal to it.
Half time in the Upper Barclay bar was interesting. We could have split into two groups and charged at each other with the verbal equivalent of clubs and sticks. Half of us were happy with what we’d seen, the other half wanted to see the round thing banged forward at seemingly every opportunity. All very civilised of course and the same conversation was going on everywhere. No middle ground to be heard!
Keith, my sounding board for over 30 years, was so convinced Bolton were going to mug us late on that it was difficult to persuade him that would not be in the script.
Unfortunately, our “steely knives” were considerably blunter in the second period and eventually the patient “pass them to death” approach started to grate on me and I began to think the milder of the “hoof it up” brigade might have had a little bit of a point. I hate hoofball but it became increasingly obvious as the clock ticked down that we were not going to break them down with our style.
In fact, for once it was the opposition who came on stronger in the second half. They might have created hardly anything, but they were certainly well organised and dealt with our increasingly limited pressure really well and fair play to them. I’m not making excuses, but the extra day’s rest may have benefited Bolton in that respect.
There was time for a solo performance of “Who’s A Naughty Boy Then” from one Daniel Farke, who was told to leave his technical area and seek somewhere else to hang out by the often-infuriating figure of referee Keith Stroud. C’mon Daniel, that’s not really how to return the ball to the opposition after a foul throw, now is it?
The mood on the way out verged on the sombre in many quarters. It is indeed frustrating that we seem unable to dispose of the bottom-rung bus-parkers at home, but I have faith that this issue will be one of many suitably addressed in the summer.
If anyone deserved the Man of the Match it was certainly big Zimbo and there was a decent debut from Onel Hernandez until he understandably faded later on.
So, February has seen us accumulate more draws than Furnitureland but I’m by no means giving up on the style Farke is imposing, particularly as unlike some I don’t find it boring. It’s the final third of the final third (do your own maths) where we are lacking.
Hotel California also, if inadvertently, reminded me of how I feel every time I ascend the Barclay stairs:
I was thinking to myself this could be heaven, or this could be hell.
I doubt that feeling will ever go away.
All the very best to Stephen Fry in his dealings with prostate cancer, an evil the whole football family is only too aware of.