Often Partisan

Bolton Reflections – Winning Ugly

Birmingham City got the win they wanted against Bolton on Tuesday night thanks to Clayton Donaldson’s 29th minute winner – but they could and should have more against a Trotters side that looked devoid of hope.

It has to be said, Bolton are quite comfortably the worst team I’ve seen at St Andrew’s this season. For periods of the game Blues weren’t much better but Diego Fabbrini repaid a portion of his £1.5million fee by unlocking the Bolton defence with one moment of brilliance to set up Donaldson.

Prior to the goal, it seemed obvious Bolton had come to try to nick it, and they were playing with 11 men behind the ball to frustrate Blues. Early on I got the feeling it could be one of those nights because of the problems Blues have had opening defences but once Diego Fabbrini scampered down the left and picked up his first assist for the club, the game changed.

All of a sudden Bolton needed a win and they came further forwards, leaving gaping holes at the back. In the second half especially Blues could have properly hammered them but too many passes went astray and too many touches were taken at critical times.

One major plus was David Cotterill. When he came on he looked four times the player Will Buckley was and gave Blues an instant threat down the right. The Welsh winger reinforced the point that when fit he really must start – not only is he the best player we have for set pieces but he makes us so much more dangerous going forwards because of his willingness to beat players and to shoot.

Jacques Maghoma was given the man of the match award and in truth he deserved it. The former Sheffield Wednesday player makes such a difference – not only with his driving runs and breaks but by the fact he chases the ball down and wins it high up the pitch. His decision making is sometimes a little suspect but you cannot fault the fact that with Maghoma in the team it’s more than just Donaldson wearing down a defence.

Bolton had two major chances. The first was a goalmouth scramble that turned into a ruck that wouldn’t have disgraced the Six Nations and in all honesty I expected a Bolton player to emerge from the steaming pile of bodies with the ball and score the Championship’s first try of the season, such was the resemblance to a spot of egg-chasing.

While the performance wasn’t brilliant at times this is the kind of game Blues have to win if they are to remain in the playoff race. I know some people were unhappy but at times I’m happy with winning ugly if it means we’ve got a chance of progression further down the line.

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68 Responses to “Bolton Reflections – Winning Ugly”

  • Womboune Blue says:

    Winning ugly is just about right. I thought we looked really sluggish at times and didn’t really seem at it. It may be strange to criticise the defence after a clean sheet, but I thought Shotton and Grounds were really poor, particularly with their distribution, and Gleeson and Buckley were anonymous throughout. Fabbrini looked a class act and Cotterill looked sharp when he came on, but three points aside, not too much to shout about. Still, a win’s a win and now to QPR and hopefully another three points. KRO

  • John Ramsay says:

    Most of the game Blues were not much better than Bolton and apart from the one bit of magic which created the goal it was a horrible game to watch. But I”ll take an ugly 3 pts any day.
    One question is Shotton really better than Caddis? I don’t think so. He was very poor imo. Also we lose any attackung threat down the right side.

  • StaffsBlue says:

    We’re reminding me so much of the team under McLeish. How many games did we win ugly back then? At this stage of the season, who cares. 3 points is the be-all and end-all. Another boring, ugly 3 points on Saturday will do very nicely thank you.

  • David L says:

    Respect for Fabbrini greatly increased last night. We gave him the ball in some horrible positions – yet still he managed to win free kicks or pass on possession, and the ball to lay on the goal was a rare bit of skill in a mainly dire game.

    But for all that, when Toral came on , our play gained more dimensions and threat, instead of just (a) lump it to Don or (b) give it to Diego. Is there any way that both can play?

    Entirely agree re Cotterill – he added yet more attacking potency.

    Oh, and what were the Blues fans raising money for last night with what seemed to be a sponsored silence during the game? If my wife’s bra gave as much support to their team as our lot did for us last night…well, let’s just say it would bring a whole new meaning to bouncing along the bottom.

  • nicko says:

    i agree with you staffs win at all costs ugly or not with John Ramsey Shotton is a better defender than Caddis but can not attack like him under Lee Clark that is a game we would have lost. any way onwards and upwards kro

  • Shirley Blue says:

    14 games left – we are probably going to need to win half of them and three or four draws should get us in 5th or 6th place. We are not going to go unbeaten so need to factor in a few defeats. Certainly possible. 43% possession against Bolton at home takes some doing but we had 13 shots against their 3 according to the BBS. A few dodgy moments defensively but our keeper didn’t really have to make a save. Poor game that never flowed due to the number of free kicks but I went home happy especially when I saw the other results.

    • StaffsBlue says:

      Looking at our remaining fixtures, we’re more than capable of getting 26-28 points. That would leave us with 77-79 points. Should just be enough.

      Strange, that with 8 homes games left, only 3 are on a Saturday. :-/

    • Barny Blue says:

      Agree that winning 7 of our last 14 games should be enough to see us squeeze into the playoffs. I think we are capable of doing that. The reason we are not in the playoff positions currently is due to our form against bottom 6 sides, particularly at home. However, believe that we have the top 4 teams to play at St Andrew’s and our results in them fixtures may well be crucial – 7 point or more would be a great return, but any less would suggest that even if we made the playoffs, we probAbly would struggle to win them! KRO!

  • Bluemat says:

    I think this just goes to prove that football can be seen differently through peoples eyes. Ive seen worst performances from away teams this season that have come away with points from St Andrews. Without doubt the win is the most important thing but in all honesty Bolton’s interchanging in play and possession football going forward was much better then ours. They were much more fluid and played with a quicker tempo. Even though Bolton didn’t offer much going forward I thought we looked panicked at the back and i can probably count on 1 hand the amount of times we kept the ball for about 4 passes, our ball retention was woeful. I think in all honesty if Bolton had a striker on the pitch last night we could of been in trouble. I do agree though at the end of the day the best phase of play won the game. Onwards and upwards. KRO!

  • Hillfield Blues says:

    The good thing about last night apart from the 3 points were Cottrills performance when he came on and the fact that we are integrating Fabrini into our system.I think both players are going to be very important in the run in.

  • Bluenosesol says:

    Why cant we get a midfield dynamo the likes of a Steve Lynex, Stan Harland or Fabrice Muamba, who came on and played a hard and consistent game every game? Why do we have to come to matches wondering if our midfielders are going to turn up? I am afraid Buckley is in that mould as is Cotterill, Gleeson and Kieftenbeld. Ah well GR keep polishing it and lets make the play offs!! KRO.

  • Richard Granfield says:

    I thought the defence looked a lot stronger with Shotton’s presence. OK he is not Stanley Matthews going forward, but a fullback’s priority is to be able to defend and Shotton is far better than Caddis in that deparment.
    I hope Gary took note of Bolton’s number 45 Rob Holding. He is a 20 yo central defender who impressed me and crucially is out of contract in June…..Worth another look???

  • .KC says:

    Very accurate report Dan. Just to add in my opinion I think Shotton and Buckley can only get better-hopefully.

  • Jay says:

    Very ugly win but crucial nonetheless. Still would love to see us sacrifice the two holding midfielders at home especially against the likes of Bolton and go with two up top, play one holding and give the likes of Brock or Vaughan some game time, we don’t need to sit back at home against Bolton and concede possession.

  • Retroblue 73 says:

    Winning is all important, however our right side looked devoid of invention and lacked any confidence. Both Buckley and Shotton were very poor and I said last night during the game what must Caddis be thinking seeing Shotton ahead of him. I was calling for both Caddis and Cotterill to come on the replace Buckley & Shotton long before any subs were made. I disagree about Bolton being the worst team down St Andrews this season, that would be MK Dons for sure. Thought that Donaldson was again very good as was Maghoma but Mags does have the knack of not pulling the trigger and wanting to beat the man for a 10th time….

  • Dave Mann says:

    It’s now 14 games and 23 points and counting for our glorious playoff push to the promised land … It was no mans land last night with many dead men walking and a trully dull performance but three points gained and if it’s same again Saturday then no complaints from me .. I just love playing away !! KRO

  • I get the feeling that our 4+2+3+1 system could cause us to much panic at times , I feel that our fullbacks all though good defensively lose a bit to the team on going forward , I feel that it would benefit the team to play the 5 best attacking players to get us over the line and to score us more goals and so avoiding the panic on passing ect . with this in mind and the players we have I would like us to try a 3+2+4+1 system , with gleeson ,..kef……..cotts.. toral..fab maghoma ………as midfield players with Donaldson up front ,..this would eleviate the need for attacking fullbacks , with us being more in the opposition’s half being a more attacking side would even out having one less defender , and the extra goals would avoid us panic passing under pressure , ….just an idea..KRO .

  • Andrew says:

    we need to win these if we have a chance of playoffs, but my biggest question is can we keep enough clean sheets and score enough goals in games where we need to. biggest fear is scoring enough.

  • Dave Mann says:

    Strange how a couple of months ago we were moaning about the defence and praising our attack and now it’s turned full circle .. Get both right and the playoffs are a certainty , if both go pear shaped then it’s vile time next season . KRO

  • The Flying Pig says:

    Shotton was rotten in terms of his forward play; on the positive side, he is much better defensively than Caddis, (although he didn’t jump with his player for one first half corner which could have cost a goal). One other point on him was that after a woeful crossfield ‘pass’ in the second half, he actually knuckled down and kept it simple and even put over a couple of decent crosses – fair play for not hiding.

    For me, Buckley just isn’t anywhere near Cotts – the latter has to start on Saturday.

    As stated by others above, our ball-retention was awful; we really do not work hard enough to get into places to receive passes – but then I suppose this is to be expected given the budgetary constraints.

    Grinding out wins ain’t pretty but its a good quality to have – KRO

  • RichardM says:

    Agree with Cotterill verdict, his entry made us look far more dangerous and the keeper made a good save to deny him a second for Blues. Not sure why Shotton and Grounds are getting it in the neck, I saw one misplaced pass from Shotton but otherwise they were OK – Grounds in particular was called upon frequently to deal with most of the raids second half that came down his flank.

    Maghoma and Donaldson superb as always, as was Kieftenbeld.

    Dull match but three points vital. I’m still not convinced we’re good enough yet for the play-offs, and with Brighton, Burnley, Middlesboro and Hull still to visit St Andrew we need to win at least two of those which I think is a big ask and will require much better all round performances.

    Loved the “can’t be arsed” ballboy in the second half, kind of a statement for the game as a whole really, do we pay these guys any money?

  • Bluey says:

    Not a great attendance last night.Thoughts? Was it the opposition,lack of belief in promotion chances or other reasons?

  • Dave Mann says:

    Got to be honest and was totally gobsmacked at the poor attendance , was expecting closer to 20,000 than 15,000 but all those excuses you used are propably the reason but the lack of support in the ground was very poor .. At least it will be a great atmosphere Saturday at Loftus road with our remarkable away support ! KRO

    • Bluey says:

      Mind you it was still 4th highest crowd of the night so maybe we`re expecting too much.It was only a fraction lower than Ipswich v Hull City which was a big promotion match-up.

    • Andrew says:

      I think you’re unfair to accuse blues fans of lack in support. You can’t possibly know everybody’s personal situation to say they should be more of them to attend a football match. On the flip side EVERY football club has it’s fair weather fans and if blues were a cert to go up or even playing premier league they would get greater numbers or even closer to capacity.

      • Bluey says:

        You`ve kinda contradicted yourself there.On one you`re saying that poor crowds can be down to personal circumstances and i certainly agree.However then you say if we were going up attendances would improve.I don`t see a correlation between the team doing well and fans circumstances changing.Either you can go or can`t,how the team is doing should be largely irrelevant.

        • Andrew says:

          I’m just trying to state how their are two obvious reasons that fans don’t go to games through choice or circumstances. Don’t see a real contradiction. I just don’t think it’s fair to label EVERY fan the same.

          • Bluey says:

            No-one is labelling EVERY fan the same,i`m not sure where you get that from. My main question was why are so many staying away when the team is doing better than expected and with an outside chance of promotion? I do worry about flagging attendances,last season we were 15th in terms of crowd size and 12th so far this season.If we were really struggling i`d understand but that`s not the case.

  • Retired&Weary says:

    Like one or two others, I disagree about Bolton being the worst away side this season. They worked very hard in closing us down – a big reason for our stuttering performance – good job they didn’t have an end product.
    Buckley was poor again I thought, and Shotton disappointing, but it’s early days for these players. Regarding Cotterill, am I the only one who can’t understand the big love in? Yes he can produce a great dead ball delivery sometimes – not as often as people make out! He’s an accident waiting to happen in my opinion.

  • Texas Pete says:

    There are 8 games in April! That is ridiculous. Especially when there are only 4 in March. It will certainly be rough for injuries and stamina. I wonder if all teams have that to suffer. Then the teams that succeed enter the playoffs for more of the same. Just stupid. I think it will be a killer for a small squad….Of course I hope that is not the case for us.

  • I remember Steve coppell with reading Texas Pete , they totally dominated the 2005_6 season but in the run in the team were about spent , so he relaxed on training so one newspaper stated and soared through ..,

  • StaffsBlue says:

    The thing I expect most in a full back, is that he can defend. Both Shotton and Grounds do that pretty well, so I have no complaints about them. One other thing about Shotton last night, was when there was that melee in the 6 yard box, he spotted the gap by the post and moved around to cover it. Good defending. Yes, Caddis is good going forward, but he’s an awful defender.

    • Shirley Blue says:

      There were a couple of times in the second half that Shotton was able to deal with situations with his height and strength that I think Caddis would have struggled with. Caddis would be an ideal wing back in a 3-5-2. I think Buckley missed his runs forward creating space. Penalties is another issue – I think we have scored more than anyone else in the division.

      • StaffsBlue says:

        I’ve always thought, too, that Caddis would make a better wing back. But, as a full back, he gets caught out upfield too much and gets left for dead by opposition wide men, he doesn’t stop crosses and he doesn’t defend his post that well, often caught out of position. But, you can’t really fault him as an attacking option.

  • Dave Mann says:

    I would still prefer Shotton at centre half and Caddis at right back now Cotterill is back on the scene because last night showed me that going forward was hard work and humping forward was our only outlet … Clean sheets are doing for us at the moment but the Caddis , Cotterill combination is what’s needed to get us a bit more playing football and creating chances IMO . KRO

  • Euston 9.18. says:

    Getting 3 points is never “ugly”
    Off to the smoke on Saturday hopefully we kick the cockney arse again.
    I’m sure the BLUES players will think they are playing at home with the noise from the away end.
    An “ugly” 3 points will do for me before soho !!

  • Dave Mann says:

    We’re be there , at the end of the road , qpr won’t know what’s hit them , well they will but I hope they appreciate the support we give because there support at stans was trully dismall . KRO

    • Womboune Blue says:

      Couldn’t agree more Dave. Less than 16000 when ticket prices, which included a pie and a drink, were£20. Not sure what else the club can do to encourage fans to get off their backsides and support the team. Don’t hold with the Tuesday evening excuse – if we get a playoff semi-final night game, the ground will be full of supporters who haven’t missed a game! Rowett’s first home game in charge was a night game when over 18000 turned up. KRO

  • Goodie says:

    What you have to realise is shotton as far as I believe is a centre back and should be along side Morrison carnt understand why gr is playing him full back ???

  • Mikeyboy says:

    Rowett brought Fabbrini in just to do that: create something in games when the opposition try to frustrate us. Job done. Caddis is a defensive liability that is why Shotton was brought in. Robinson was again excellent and has been integral to all the clean sheets we have been getting. People who think he is a liability don’t understand football but that is not surprising

  • Hillfield Blues says:

    Sheff Wed and Derby are away at Hull and Wolves respectively this weekend so it would be great to produce one of our away day specials at QPR,we’re due one.
    There are options in different positions/formations now and GR needs to get it right bearing in mind the last couple of away games where there hasn’t been a threat.Cotts and Toral need to start and I would give Davis a start ahead of Gleeson to give us some bite in midfield.

  • I would like to see shotton at centre half for blues next season if we give him a few games there and see if he is OK which he is , but I like caddis as a defensive midfield player who for me seems to light up the team going forward , robbo mind you keeps catching the imagination of glory ..

  • Matt says:

    I thought Grounds had a great game, his ball down the line, lead on to Buckley who played it to Diego. Shotton definitely needs work on his control but seems a good defender. Toral should feel very unlucky to be left out, Diego is fantastic and his quality was what unlocked Boltons defence but for me Toral is still our best player, he adds another dimension to our attack. Maghoma was fantastic & Cotts showed what he can do when he came on. Hopefully Gleeson & Kieftenbeld have better games as they were pretty anonymous & didn’t keep the ball v well. Oh well, 3 points is all that matters.

    • Mitchell says:

      Matt.I think the Toral decision was reached after the player himself has stated that he wishes to return to Arsenal at season end. Fabrini is a blues player now so must be given priority. As regards Caddis and Shotton -it would make sense to play Shotton at CH and Caddis RB but Robbo.is there on merit and until he falters or gets a knock etc.he will keep the spot. My main concern is Buckley and Vaughan. Imo they don’t inspire enough and probably due to lack of games etc. I really did hope that the loan additions would be vastly better than what we already had and would have shot straight into the team. However we have more bodies around now. Finally a big plea to GR to play Davis this Saturday.i really fear this player will want out if his continued dropping carries on.

      • Shirley Blue says:

        So you think the manager should change the team purely on the basis that a player might leave if he isn’t selected. Not the most sensible basis for picking a team to win a vital game I would suggest.

        • Mitchell says:

          Not entirely that reason Shirley Blue. Two major issues leaped out at me leading up to the Bolton game -firstly Torals quote that he wishes to return to Arsenal at season end and the Fabrinni factor that again he is being used as a bit part player as he has experienced most of his career. Toral is class no doubt and if GR really felt Fabrinni was the preferred choice over the two of them,then I would be surprised. My thoughts before the game was for both players to start at the expense of Gleeson.

          • Shirley Blue says:

            I was commenting on your comment about Davis. The only way Gleeson is coming out of the starting line up is due to injury or suspension. I think knowing Bolton would park the bus then GR felt Fabbrini had a few more tricks than Toral to create an opening which he did. I don’t think the fact that Toral is leaving at the end of the season is of the slightest importance in team selection – he will pick a team to win a game. Toral is our player for the rest of the season loan or not.

        • StaffsBlue says:

          I think you’ll find that Toral has said the same thing since he joined us. I certainly remember him saying, before Xmas, that his eventual aim was to get into the Arsenal squad , so it’s not really news as such. Lingard said exactly the same thing when he was here, so did Huws and Rusniak. They’re here for experience, you can’t really expect them to be loyal to us.

          • Hillfield Blues says:

            Agree.You can’t blame him for wanting to go back to Arsenal but that’s got nothing to do with GRs thinking on team selection.He picked the best 11 to win a football match.Toral is better suited to our counter attacking style away from home with his running and directness and will start against QPR imo.Fabrini is a different type of player and was brought in to give us something different in midfield especially at home.Incorporating him into our system isn’t going to happen overnight when most of the season we have had a counter attacking approach.

          • StaffsBlue says:

            It could well be that he’ll pick one (Fabbrini) at home to unlock defences and one away (Toral) for the counter attack. Horses for courses. I don’t think either player could complain and I don’t think the fans would either.

        • Andrew says:

          Davis is first pick for me never mind upsetting anyone. We look a better team with him. Don’t know what stats say.

  • BhamCityJulian says:

    Our tactics now see to be keep it tight and narrow for 60 mins then expansions and wide for the remaining time. Fabbrini is pacing himself for the hour when Toral comes on. Buckley being in the first 60 mins in reigned it too but he uses the ball intelligently which is an improvement on some others

  • Mitchell says:

    Shirley Blue. I see your point about the Davis comment. apologies. However I really rate him and should he be allowed to leave I see a big hole ‘of his type’ to fill. We all have our favourites and my three are Caddis,Davis and Maghoma.

  • I would like to see a 4+3+3 at home with. .fab …Donaldson …toral up front …

    • Andrew says:

      Magohma is missing then and I think he’s an asset now

      • StaffsBlue says:

        Maghoma would be one of the first names on the teamsheet for me.

        As for 4-3-3, I can’t understand why Rowett abandoned it so easily. We beat Derby and Ipswich with it and drew with Forest and Bristol City. 8 points from 12 (plus 7 goals.) We reverted back to 4-2-3-1 and got 4 points from the next 9 (plus 2 goals.) Obviously, it’s up to the manager to do as he sees fit, but the points totals speak for themselves.

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