STRAIGHT FROM THE STANDS: Whites cannot afford Wembley hangover

It is difficult to look at Bolton’s Wembley disaster show with anything other than the feeling of an opportunity missed. Ian Evatt said as much, but the emotions of defeat still linger a week later.

I suppose you can accept the loss, in a way, if it involved a display of effort and grit, but the 2-0 defeat to Oxford United was a weak and timid affair. I could say a lot worse things, but I have to keep this PG.

I have been to Wembley three times watching Bolton now, the 5-0 defeat to Stoke, the win over Plymouth last year and this. This one is still raw and honestly feels worse than 2011 if I am being honest.

The stakes were high, the path to the Championship never felt clearer and yet it just was not to be. Rest assured that next year’s league setup will prove to be more challenging, with some dangerous teams being introduced alongside some of the mainstays.

The most frustrating part is that I cannot begin to explain what the team was trying to achieve with that setup. There was no purpose or intent from the first whistle, it was almost as if they were scared to attack and did not look comfortable on the ball.

We all know how any game turns out for an Evatt coached side when they cannot bypass the opposition’s press or move the ball at will. Too many times a team has figured us out and the whole ‘playing from the back with the speed of a Vauxhall Nova’ just does not cut the mustard.

So in response, Evatt’s option was to try a different method and to go more direct. This involved moving Josh Dacres-Cogley to left wing back, 37 year old Cameron Jerome partnering Victor Adeboyejo up front, which continued the impressive statistic of zero shots on target throughout the game.

With an almost fully fit squad, that was Evatt’s response – to hit the ball up field in the hope that his target men or wing backs could find success. For a man who is so diligent with his preparation time off the field, that is not good enough for the standards he has set himself.

I am no expert, but I do not profess to be. I know that when teams suss Bolton out, there needs to be a bolder approach to switch things up. Maybe the infamous ‘plan B’ is Evatt going more direct, but there has to be more.

I have said for the longest time I would love to see us have the personnel to maybe go to a 4-3-3 in some instances. We have had the wingers in the past to do this, but the ideology has always remained the same.

Questions exist outside of formations though, and the inquest into a long summer will involve hard conversations about some players who are not good enough and need to go.

Bolton need a lot, but they especially need a Marlon Pack type midfielder – someone who gets their nose bloody and adds some steel to an undersized midfield. Having George Johnston back helps the defence, but I personally still have concerns about both wing backs.

Anyway, I can touch on the state of the squad in other articles, but that is where my head is at right now.

Football.. why do we bother?

Trying to shift this bad mood

by Tony Thompson

The Bolton News: Bolton Wanderers' Victor Adeboyejo is consoled by Oxford United's goalkeeper Jamie Cumming at the

Disappointment might be my chosen Mastermind subject after a lifetime spent following the fortunes of Bolton Wanderers.

I have lost count of the number of times I have walked into a football ground whistling a happy tune, only to wreck the rest of my weekend. Or in this case, my entire week.

All because 11 blokes haven’t kicked a ball around well enough to win a game of football? It’s daft when you put it like that.

It is the truth, though. Bolton was named as the happiest place to live in Greater Manchester last year, but I’d guarantee Wigan finish top of the pile if you took it now.

My friends, my family, everyone has moped around this week. I’m sure even the dog (officially named Trotter, but usually shortened to Trotski) has picked up on the vibes. Goodness knows what Ian Evatt and the players are feeling having blown such a massive chance to be playing in the Championship.

I listened to The Buff Podcast this week and completely agree with Marc and Henry’s view that the main danger for us now is carrying on this mood into next season. You have seen all the negativity on social media, and I guess that is understandable, but that will also spread into the stadium if you let it, and we have all been there before.

I hated what I saw at Wembley. I hated that my team got made to look so ordinary by Oxford United. But me, 30,000 other supporters, a manager and his players had better find a way of getting over it, or we will be ruining years of hard work.

I’m having a football-free weekend. I’m going to have a walk with my wife in the Pennines, I’m going to have a beer or two, I’m going to make Sunday dinner and I am going to find that reset button that Ian Evatt is always talking about. Next week I want to go a whole night without dreaming about Paris Maghoma getting steamrollered on the touchline, Ricardo Santos putting his foot on the ball, or Josh Sheehan putting a corner on to the roof of the net.

There are serious things to consider but thankfully they are not mine to decide. I don’t know what to say about the manager who was clearly wrestling with his own conscience when he talked to the cameras last weekend, and I don’t want to write something I regret about the players who have let us down. I’ll leave that to people better qualified.

I will be there again in August, or at least whenever the job will let me. I will be watching on my iPad when they go back to Exeter or Shrewsbury. I will be ready to hope and believe again that promotion is possible.

I just hope my team turns up with the same frame of mind.

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