Ricketts rocket gives Coyle hope as Fletcher has last word
Bolton Wanderers 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 01 January 2012
The trouble with Bolton this season, apart from the obvious one that they have forgotten how to win games, is that they have also forgotten how to draw them.
This share of the spoils was their first since February. They would much rather have put a dent in an even more damning statistic – the one that shows them winning only one home game this season – and they just about deserved to do so.
Leading by Sam Ricketts' first goal since 2007, they were, not for the first time, undone by a set-piece. Although it was an improved Bolton performance, it still left them bottom of the Premier League going into 2012. Draws are all very well, but Bolton have left themselves in a situation where they need a run of victories to lift them out of the relegation mire in the new year.
"It was a game which, a few weeks ago, we would probably have lost," said the Bolton manager, Owen Coyle. "But now we're starting to get some players back."
Coyle answered one potentially awkward question by retaining Gary Cahill as captain in the middle of his defence, despite Chelsea having agreed a price for the England international. "He's still a Bolton player," explained Coyle. "And I know the character of the man."
Blackburn's unlikely victory at Old Trafford meant that Bolton kicked off in last place, with Wolves themselves precariously placed in 16th. That shock news should have injected a little extra urgency into both sides, but, as befits a meeting between the division's two Wanderers, this was a match that meandered aimlessly for some time before finding its direction.
The first real sign of purpose was Steven Fletcher's 20-yard shot, calmly saved by Jussi Jaaskelainen. David Ngog then put a neat ball onto the chest of Ivan Klasnic, who could not quite control it.
When the breakthrough came, it was from an unlikely source. Ricketts had been out for 10 months with a severe achilles tendon injury and was returning in place of Paul Robinson after his howler against Newcastle.
After 21 minutes, he cut in from the left and shot with his right foot, beating the in-form Wayne Hennessey with a shot that flew inside the far post – a nice bonus when you change left-backs.
"It was a terrific performance considering he had been out for 10 months," Coyle said.
Bolton continued to make that same channel a happy hunting ground, Martin Petrov twice getting into shooting positions, once to under-hit his effort and once to see it flash just wide.
Wolves were very much on the back foot, but they gave notice that they were still in the contest when Stephen Ward thumped a long-range shot against the crossbar, possibly with the help of a finger-tip save.
The best move of the first half, though, came from a generally dominant Bolton when Ngog released Petrov and Klasnic could not quite force his near-perfect cross home.
"I don't know where that first half came from," said Wolves' Mick McCarthy. "We just didn't turn up." They were to do so four minutes after the interval.
Wolves' equaliser came after Ricketts was penalised rather harshly for pushing Fletcher on the right touchline. Matt Jarvis' subsequent free-kick found the home defence short of its full concentration and Fletcher stole in for his sixth headed goal of the season.
Bolton dominated territorially after that, but superb saves from Hennessey denied Fabrice Muamba and Cahill.
Wolves then threatened to deprive them even of one point with a late flurry that saw Jarvis' corner deflected on to the post.
"It was much better in the second half," said McCarthy. "But what you saw was two sides who are struggling to win games."
Two sides, he might have added, who are going to have to.
Bolton (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Ricketts; M.Davies, Muamba, Reo-Coker, Petrov; Ngog (K Davies, 87), Klasnic (Tuncay, 76).
Wolves (4-4-2): Hennessey; Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Elokobi (Edwards, 46); Hunt (Foley, 81), Henry, Ward, Jarvis; Fletcher (Doyle, 67), Ebanks-Blake.
Referee Mark Clattenburg.
Man of the match Knight (Bolton).
Match rating 6/10.
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