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Where I End and You Begin - Bolton Away Report


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So that's it, then. Another season done and dusted. It's been a mixed bag, with an underlying theme of improvement and optimism. Today's game exemplified why.

The day started with the short trip, for me, to Horwich and the Bromilow Arms, where, some fine beer ( the local flat cap) was taken, and end of season chatter was had with fellow Villans from the North West. (Credit again to Bickster for taxiing it all the way from Liverpool).

After our pre-match sharpeners we walked down to the out of town shopping mall and football dome place that is the home of Bolton Wanderers. We knew I think, what we'd get. They might have lost "Big Sam", but the players are still the same - all big, strong, fit lads, with a bit of ability, a good team ethic and an awkward style of play, to both play against and to watch.

The first 20 minutes or so, in the Lancashire rain, were pretty end of season uneventful. The game wasn't a great spectacle. Villa playing the same team as last week were relaxed, but not lackadaisical, Bolton were their usual selves.

It was around about the 20 minute mark when they scored, in front of us. A knock down in the box, less than diligent marking and Gary Speed finished well. Sloppy, really by Villa, but exactly the sort of awkward thing Bolton excel at.

Fortunately, Villa have a spirit and ability about them these days that means we don't take setbacks as anything more than temporary blips. Within 5 minutes Craig Gardener had scored an absolute blinder. A volley as the ball fell over his shoulder, from Big John's knock on, on from the corner of the box. it was unstoppable. 1-1 and the game reverted to it's middling fair. Plenty of people seemed as interested in scores from elsewhere, a sure sign that the game wasn't riveting the attention.

There were a few scrapes at each end, and injury to Tommy, caused by a fair challenge as he hesitated with a defender over who was going to deal with a ball, and Nolan, I think, caught him on the hand, with his studs.

The second half saw Stuart Taylor on, and Bolton swap Anelka (off) for Idan Tal.

Bolton had more of the play for the first part of the half, and another failure to clear a ball in left Davies to score, similarly to Speed in the first half.

For a while, Bolton were well in control, and they looked perhaps more likely to get a third, than we did to equalise. The Villa players looked tired in comparison to the Trotters who were after a European place.

Martin O'Neill decided to replace Patrick berger with Luke Moore, and a bit later, Freddie Bouma with Steven Davis. Both substitutions worked well, livening up the side and adding threat and invention.

You just know with Luke, that given a chance, he'll score. He did again. Lovely play by MoTM Ashley Young a ball in from the goal line, and Luke Volleyed past Jaskelainen before he could blink. The last 10 minutes then saw Villa pressing, then holding on, then Bolton playing for time, presumably because of scores elsewhere.

Referee Clattenburg blew his whistle for the last time this season, the fans, many Villans in fancy dress, cheered and applauded the players off. Martin Laursen threw his shirt into the crowd, hopefully he'll stay.

It rained some more and I was home in time for tea.

Some marks for a fairly ordinary game.

Tommy 6 (Stuart taylor 6)

Aaron Hughes 6

Freddie Bouma 6

Olly 6 - never seems to do well against the physical sides.

Martin Laursen 7 - we'll seriously miss him if he goes. I hope his fitness stays and his knees hold up.

Patrick Berger - 6

Gareth Barry 7

Craig Gardner 7 (1 for the fabulous volley)

Ashley Young 8 MoTM - full of confidence and tricks.

Big John - 6

Gabby 6.

So, for the next 3 months, while cricketers huddle from the rain, tennis players fleetingly take centre stage and papers talk of transfers and intrigue to fill the space, we'll recharge out batteries, rest our throats and watch as the club continues to improve.

We started brightly, dipped and then came again. That's the beginning sorted, now comes the hard bit.

Thanks to all the players and staff, the barmen and barmaids, the fellow claret and blue travellers and even the odd train driver. See you all in August.

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Enjoyable, thanks. Nice to see Young doing so well.

Would rather we had the appropriate capital letters in the title though, especially as this is on NewsNow :winkold:

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Ashley Young has benn excellent for the last three of four games. I've a feeling we've got a proper player on our hands.

Cheers Pete, and thanks for the reports throughout the year.

Run down northern wastlelands have rarely been so lovingly rendered.


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