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Bolton Wanderers 0 v 5 Ipswich Town
SkyBet League Two
Saturday, 24th August 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Mullet added 19:08 - Aug 24
To the University of Bolton stadium to see what we might learn about the state of our nation’s third tier went 700 or so Ipswich fans. A place where once fierce league and playoff matches saw tens of thousands, now an ossuary where Bolton Wanderers used to be.

Lambert spared little sentiment with Holy keeping his place and a back four of KVY, Chambers, Wilson and Kenlock. Skuse and Downes remained in the middle as Edwards and Judge took either wing. Jackson and Norwood the prongs of our attack.

Bolton meanwhile had barely any recognisable names. Recent Town linkees of Matthews in goal and Brockbank at right back were accompanied by the gangly Zouma at the back and the forlorn and hopeful Brown-Sterling a lone striker who was more a midfielder at times.

The game kicked off in brilliant sunshine and dry heat, the players however struggled to do more than bathe in it. Town almost immediately repelled home team explorations forward and switched to a back two. Judge and Edwards coming in from out wide to pack a midfield where the full backs move through the thirds.

This yielded two very different moves early on. Chambers picked out Kenlock on the switch, and he stepped inside as he has become accustomed to. An interchange with Judge on the apex of the box became an early low point as the ball was soon back with Holy. Collecting a ball over the top and into the channels.

Soon after KVY showed jelly legs to dance down the right, having pressed home his desire to catch the eye he worked off the midfield and then slipped inside his man, and over the ball before trying to find either a striker running in at close range.

Norwood was winning applause and encouragement as he got his head and foot to a lot of the ball, but it was akin to the way in which Chambers and Wilson did when they were defending. With Skuse in front of them they formed a neat and effective defensive wedge which pushed Bolton out wide and down the flanks.

Worryingly it was Kenlock who often allowed them closer to the box than necessary. Whether that was due to the strength of more seasoned Bolton players on that flank or not was unclear. What was for sure though that Town looked better playing long balls into space than they did picking each other out at close quarters.

You rarely felt as if Holy would have to use his hands other than collecting lofty ambitious attempts. Contrastingly it was noticeable how Town weren’t testing those of his opposite number enough. An intricate freekick routine saw Norwood slam well wide from outside the box after Judge played a bizarre backheel into nobody’s path. The improvisation was a bum note from the man most town fans are expecting virtuoso performances from.

Edwards and Judge looked like two players who might weight a killer ball to either forward and leave them just Matthews to play goalmouth chicken with. It would come down the right from a neat manoeuvre where Jackson had his low drive palmed past the post.

The corner was well hit, maybe even overhit as the melee at the back post saw many hands go up from Town players and then the ref’s was raised too. Penalty. Somewhere, a Bolton hand had struck the ball apparently.

Judge scampered after the ball, so did Norwood. The man who had missed one at Peterborough made sure there was no saviour between the sticks, thanks to Specsavers and a murderous puncture of a shot not quite down the middle of the goal. The net rippled, so did the applause, most stood in the away end, a few shouted and stuff. And so it began, well actually it didn’t really.

If Town had laboured in the heat, they had built very little in terms of credible dissection of the Trotters. Norwood span and volleyed over when it looked like the goalmouth would all but swallow the ball as it left his foot. Judge had his attempt from a free kick to grab some glory but curled it over, Mr Whippy almost dropped some points from the next passage of play. He stepped in with a petulant foul in Kenlock’s long shadow. Had Bolton been likely to score it was from a set piece, but as they overdid it and KVY scrambled it away you sensed an even bigger cock up was needed to level things.

As the first half came to end there were more questions to ask of the visitors than had been asked of the hosts. It was largely men against boys and when the sparse home crowd felt that the game was not adjudicated in that spirit they began to heckle and call for everything. Zouma went through on Edwards and looked to be out of control more than exuberant, no card let alone the red someone like Toto would have seen last season.

Every shove, every close call on the last defender vs the runner brought howls of protest, it seemed to be enough to throw Town off their game as their ill-discipline was more tactical than anything else.

If 4-4-2 has been a winning formula so far, the mix has at times been a little unstable and rarely explosive. Judge and Edwards switched sides often and caused as much confusion for their colleagues trying to find them as they did their markers.

Bolton blazed one more free kick over in a good position whilst Norwood struck the gloves of Matthews and Judge put the ball wide. Snuck in by the number 10 off a Holy free kick, those predicting an assist for the big Czech in the net might get it right sooner rather than later if teams are silly enough to let them bounce when the ground is still dry.

Going in with a half time lead is usually a cause for celebration, but it’s hard not to feel Town where imprecise and uncertain in their machinations. You could stop at most names on the team sheet and ask if they could have had a goal on an assist next to it and yet it was single slender margin which separated sides you’d expect to be two division apart this time next year.

The second half kicked off and almost from get-go Town had a throw just inside the opposing half. It was symbolic of what was to come. Norwood’s ghosting run complimented the direct one of Jackson and the defender trailing him. Arcing in behind both of them as the ball bounced in front of Matthews, Norwood cleverly went close but only made contact with the man not the ball. Down for some time, the limp was genuine as was the concern behind the goal.

Town won a corner from the next phase of play on the right. It was meant to be an outswinger, but Judge expertly kicked across it to whip in a flat delivery for Chambers at the back post. His movement was as excellent as the cross, but the save which denied him even better.

With the evidence of motivation rather than tactical tinkering from the team talk being gathered, it wasn’t long before Edwards was celebrating down in front of the Town fans. Norwood being closed out on the six-yard mark then sent the ball across and back where the Welshman stepped in to sweep home with a low drive.

Skuse had been the quiet engine propelling Town forward as you’d expect of a man who had the freedom of the swathe of pitch between defence and attack-minded midfielders. But when he did step up to shoot, the corner flag breathed easy, it would take a good stop before the ball would be next to it.

When head tennis followed the resultant kick, the ball dropped outside the box then was returned by Downes. Norwood again found Edwards but his effort clipped the post when it seemed easier to bag a brace. He diverted to Jackson who beat it past all comers to claim our third.

Town looked far more befitting of their station and began to railroad Bolton’s youths. They are unlucky that games are an and a half, because up until their 60 minute mark they were still game if all but out of it. Flagging more than the linesmen when Kayden ran anywhere near a through ball, the Trotters all but rolled over for Jackson to make it four. Well timed, well hit, well beyond the keeper, low and hard, it was a goal befitting a far bigger game and setting arguably.

Skuse had taken a heavy knock just inside the half, and having come back on wasn’t long for the game. The battling lieutenant strutted back to the barracks as we unleashed Huws upon the hapless Bolton. The Welshman looked keen to get going, but collided rather than combined with Judge who was now firmly on the right wing this half.

He had two good sights of goal, but received groans from the same people who implored he shoot from distance not long after coming on. As the lead increased so returned the expectation of more goals that had underlined the disappointment at half time.

When under heavy fire the Romans adopted a tortoise inspired formation, Bolton clearly took classical inspiration as they continued to recede into narrower tighter enmeshment of their lines. It was merely a tactical noose as Town were no longer struggling to put them on their backs, let alone their backfoot. On came Georgiou for Edwards. The prior majority of wonky wingers and congestion was relieved by the breath of fresh air that the old-fashioned left-sided loanee provides. Straight to the chalk soon he was drawing markers and plans to grab a goal.

He was not long on the pitch and Town did just that, but without him. Huws and Judge found each other perfectly and the pass from Wales to Ireland left the home side all at sea for a fifth time. A sweet and surgical cross, Norwood showed wonderful close control to turn and despatch our fifth with vision and verve. That’s what good sides do.

Georgiou fund that when he came inside to add to the tally he was just as wrong footed and opted to shoot. Not for the first time this season an incandescent Judge was left hopping on the six yard line, an empty goal and mouthful aimed at the way of a greedy colleague. He wants it all, even if he can’t always stomach the same from his team mates.

Rowe came on to protect Norwood as like Skuse and Edwards he was too valuable to risk fitness and more minutes against a side now left to kick and lash out. Zouma was content to keep in play and bring down balls destined for the sidelines, much to everybody’s disbelief, he was as ambitious as he was perilous in his duty.

Town finished the game firing pot shots at a beleaguered Remi who drummed away all of them when called upon. It was a sight of gallantry not associated with Norwich alumni too often, and indicative of a team and club who are not the adversaries of two decades ago. The final minutes were filled with the noise of “Bolton til I die” and “Fcuk the EFL” orchestrated by all three sides of the home support and accompanied by polite Suffolk applause.

The game was all but gone as Judge handled one last cross that Matthews couldn’t get to. The goal eluded him again, but the assist did not for a second game running. Had Town done better in picking out those of the front four you’d feel we might have hit double figures easily.

A muted celebration as the Blues’ finishing XI were joined by the subs, the staff and our Johnny Cas. The manager showing only the whites of his hands in appreciation as his captain left off a little fist pump as restrained as the blue flare that sat beside the pitch ten minutes from the end. It’s blue plume of protest barely rising off the ground before being quickly extinguished by a portly orange vest of authority.

Whatever you can say about Bolton now, there are a handful of players and fans who have not yet deserted the ship. The still live for the sponsorless shirt and so they should. There but for the grace etc. Meanwhile Town did enough and scored enough to end tonight top of the league, not since 2014 can you often say that. It’s just, well, the wrong league still.

Stourbridgeblue added 20:09 - Aug 24
Very weird game. It could have been double figures apart from Matthews playing a blinder for Bolton. Shout out to the Trotters fans who never, at any point, slagged off the players. Hope they have some good news soon.

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