Bolton Wanderers 0 West Brom 2
There are games in every successful season that are instantly forgettable, but vitally important. If Albion do win promotion this season, this trip to the University of Bolton Stadium would certainly qualify, as goals from Jay Rodriguez and Sam Field were the only highlights from a drab game.
The Sky TV team had more interest in the off-field shenanigans at Bolton than the football, and maybe the football felt left out as it never really turned up. It was a shocking game not helped by an agricultural Bolton team and an ineffective set of officials, but it’s not as if the Baggies got anywhere near the heights we have seen from them this season.
Darren Moore may have been pleased with their training trip to Dubai, but there was little evidence of it having a positive impact based on that ninety minutes. The one moment of any quality was Albion’s second goal when Dwight Gayle allowed the ball to run through for Sam Field to latch onto and finish neatly for his second senior goal.
Field had come on for Chris Brunt in the first half when the skipper was forced off with a calf problem. With Albion already looking fairly stodgy, it was a tough night for him to impress but I felt that he did OK and his goal was the best moment of the night. His fellow midfielder, Rekeem Harper, got the man-of-the-match award from Don Goodman but there were no real stand-out performers.
I thought Gayle was Albion’s biggest threat, hitting the crossbar in the first half and always looking dangerous when on the ball, but his teammates failed to get the ball to him often enough. Robson-Kanu was a good outlet for the long ball but did little else, while J-Rod was busy without sparkling and had the simplest of finishes for his goal.
At the back, I thought Hegazi was excellent apart from one or two wayward passes – he was certainly in the right place at the right time on many occasions, and coped well with a few one-on-one situations late on, while Dawson gave away a few too many free kicks. Holgate is fast becoming the threat that Gibbs was for the first half of this season, although he showed a short temper following a few industrial challenges from Bolton that he will need to learn to control. Gibbs himself seems to be missing Harvey Barnes more than most as he has failed to really get going in the past couple of games.
I though Sam Johnstone was excellent in the first half but seem to lose his passing range after the break which didn’t help as the Baggies failed to control the ball in the second period.
All in all, it was a frustrating watch, and had Albion been playing any of the teams they face in February, I can’t see that they would have come away with three points and a clean sheet. Bolton looked completely devoid of confidence but still made life difficult for Darren Moore’s team.
Referee, David Webb, failed to get a grip on the game early which made it an occasionally fractious encounter, while he and his assistant missed a blatant handball by Trotters’ defender, Andy Taylor, in the first half that should have resulted in a Baggies penalty and, potentially, a more comfortable evening.
On a positive note, it was a below par performance but it resulted in three points and Albion are now up to third just four points off leaders, Leeds United. That is likely to change next weekend as the Baggies take a break from league action to take on Brighton and Hove Albion in the FA Cup, while the three clubs around them all have league games. Leeds travel to Rotherham with Norwich and Sheffield United face each other in a key clash at Carrow Road.
It’s certainly a game to put behind us and, after the FA Cup interlude, we look forward to the return of Tony Pulis for a massive game against Middlesbrough in a fortnight’s time.