By Andy Munro.
Billed as a ‘must win’ game for the Blues, I spent much of the preceding week trying not to read all the usual platitudes emanating from the Blues dressing room, namely “We’re too good to go down,” “We’re all in this together,” “It’s time to deliver,” etc, ad nauseum.
At the start of the match, the announcer tried to pump up the fan volume with a speech which had everything except “we will fight them on the beaches.” In fairness, whether it was due to his pleas, the sound of Keep Right On reverberated around the stadium Wembley style… mind you the Bolton support was the proverbial one man and a dog so there wasn’t much to drown. Interestingly there was still a ring of steel – or was it copper(s)? – around the away entrance as if we were playing West Ham. Nice bit of overtime for the boys in blue there, at the club’s expense, no doubt.
Meanwhile, on the field of play Blues started at a surprisingly high tempo and, surprise surprise, it was the deadly boot of Superkev that put us one up. Lee Bowyer should have really increased our lead whilst at the other end, Ben Foster commenced his personal duel with Daniel Sturridge. It doesn’t seem fair that Bolton, with their comparative embarrassment of riches, have managed to get such a talented player on loan.
The game continued to ebb and flow with every Blues player battling as if his life depended on it and the whole of the back four and keeper were quite simply heroic. However without being churlish, even with Cameron J running his socks off and Superkev’s clever positioning, we were continually failing to make the ball stick up front. This problem was compounded because, while the midfield were working tremendously hard, there was no one who could take on and beat players, at least not until David
Bentley came off the bench. This meant that to move the ball into dangerous positions meant a network of close passing which gave the opposition an opportunity to compose themselves.
Despite this scenario, Blues continued to make a few chances and, after having a goal disallowed, Craig Gardiner produced a typical brilliant finish to put us two up. Just as I was then taking my pipe, slippers and smoking jacket out of my carrier bag, Blues did what they always do and conceded a goal to set up a nail-biting finish. A couple of subs didn’t really help with David Bentley flattering to deceive and Zigic even more statuesque than normal, no doubt due to his injury.
Still, helped by a couple of brilliant last gasp saves by the brilliant Ben Foster, we nudged over the line first against a Bolton side who impressed with their attacking flair – something you couldn’t really say during when Bolton was Big Sam’s town.