Sunday, 23 August 2015

Bolton 1 Forest 1: Nemesis Dobbie strikes again

The season may be only four league games old but it already has a familiar feel, doesn't it? There's the early injury to Robert Tesche, the nagging feeling that we're just a couple of players short of a proper promotion push, a debate over who should play left back and, of course, a defeat to Walsall.

Still, anyone not quite back in the swing of things yet this season will have been 'reassured' by the intervention of Stephen Ruddy Dobbie. The journeyman striker yet again rose to the task of dashing Forest dreams with an injury time leveller to earn Bolton a point at the Macron (née Reebok) Stadium.

His record (4 goals, 3 assists and no defeats in 10 outings against Forest) is surely second only to Tommy Smith (5 goals, 4 assists in 12 games) in the modern day, making him deputy Tormentor in Chief for the men in red.

Still, even with Garibaldi-red tinted spectacles on you'd be hard pushed to say that the hosts weren't good value for a point. It's certainly a result we'd have all settled for before David Vaughan's sumptuous strike on 81 minutes.

Dougie Freedman surprised us all with five changes to the team which drew 0-0 against Charlton on Tuesday night, with European imports Daniel Pinillos and Kyle Ebecilio both making their debuts and starts for Tyler Walker, Jack Hobbs and Ben Osborn.

The return of Freedman was expected to provide some added spice to this fixture and cut price tickets for home fans (not for us in the away end though) meant Douglas might well have been braced for a loud, large and hostile crowd and an awkward afternoon. In truth there was just the odd boo and one slightly half-hearted strain of a chant that suggested he's a Midland banker. To be fair to the Trotters, they were probably more concerned with their side depositing a first goal of the season into our net.

The game also had little spice in a fairly pedestrian opening half. Forest were, at least, attempting to play from the back with De Vries rolling the ball to his centre halves. You felt it was probably sensible with Tyler Walker not suited to long balls and was maybe, at least in part, an answer to Dougie's critics in the home stands.

Pinillios looked solid, Ebecilio made some neat touches and Osborn's energy was welcome coming in off the right hand flank in a bright, if not exactly penetrative, opening 20 minutes.

Bolton grew into the game, however, with Gary Madine increasingly unsettling Matt Mills - also booed on his return to his former stomping ground - and more crosses coming into the penalty area. Defender Dorian Dervite, in particular, might feel he could have done better after getting on the end of two such crosses.

With Lichaj on a booking that seemed a little harsh (this was yet another game at this level with far more yellow cards issued than were warranted), you worried that Bolton would continue to threat from wide areas as the game wore on.

Tyler worked hard but was physically dominated by the elaborately named Prince-Désire Gouano (the artist presumably just known as 'Prince') in a tough afternoon.

The second half was much more open and while that made for a better game, it also put Dorus De Vries' goal at greater risk. The home side were gifted a golden chance to finally end their goal drought when awarded a slightly soft looking penalty. Mills' contact on the tricky Zach Clough may have been minimal but it was telling that the danger came from yet another cross.

Gary Madine's effort was saved by De Vries and, while it wasn't the best spot kick you'll see, it marked yet another key contribution for the Dutch stopper this season after superb saves against Brighton and Charlton.

The penalty was followed by a number of skewed shots, wayward headers and blocked efforts from the goal-shy hosts. In total the Trotters fired 21 shots on goal, with just three on target.

At the other end some neat work by Tyler Walker released Michail Antonio, who burst forward but shot straight at Ben Amos. We also failed to capitalise when Jack Hobbs found space at the far post from a free kick. We were in the game but you did fear it had the feel of one of those '1-0 home win' away days.

As the goal action started to dry up Freedman freshened things up, throwing on Chris Burke for Osborn and David Vaughan for the debutant Ebecilio. Both showed their class and experience, not least with Vaughan's stunning strike that made us dare to dream of three points.

It looked briefly as though that class from the bench would be the difference between the two sides yet, of course, Bolton has their own subs ready to sink our hopes. As soon as Stephen Dobbie's name was announced you feared he'd haunt us again and so he did, firing in from the edge of the box in added time.

The home fans were relieved while our hopes were dashed. It didn't take long for the sinking stoppage time feeling to fade and the realism that this was a decent point to replace it (certainly before Stoke on the way home).

1-1, 5 points from 4 games and 11th in the 'should they really print it this early?' league table. That's probably indicative of what's to come all season, isn't it?

On the plus side, the two debutants settled in well. Pinillos stood up to the test and looked a solid, sensible full back. Ebecilio worked hard, showing a couple of class touches that hinted to him being a smart addition once he settles in. Antonio played and, despite being tightly marked, threw the shackles off in odd flashes to show he was 'in the right place' to play. Fellow transfer target Henri Lansbury continued his decent form in the middle.

However, the Hobbs and Mills partnership needs a little work on this evidence and we didn't play high enough up the pitch to bring Tyler into the game. The young striker should learn from afternoons like this but we also need to learn how to get the best from his talents. It's also a worry that he's our only option at the moment. We didn't dominate the ball enough and allowed too many crosses to come into the area for my liking.

So, pros and cons, points shared and a predictable intervention from Stephen Dobbie. It's like the football was never away...

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