Thursday, 20 December 2012

Bolton Wanderers 2 v 0 Charlton Athletic

Saturday 15th December 2012
Football League Championship
Reebok Stadium, Horwich
Admission: £22.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 15991
Match rating: 2

With the opportunities of visiting new stadia following Charlton becoming ever scarcer these days, a visit to what was up to last season an established Premiership stadium, which has an attractive and distinctive design, was one of the stand-out fixtures for me to attend this season.

The Reebok Stadium is very conveniently located just a few minutes’ walk from Horwich Parkway rail station, and the sight of the stadium as one approaches it is certainly impressive, with its very neat, curved and unique design. In the middle of a roundabout adjacent to the stadium is the impressive 30m high “Spirit of Sport” stainless steel sculpture, which features over 700 images of persons who have been key to the sporting history of Bolton shaped into a gleaming trophy. Surrounding the rest of the stadium is a large retail park. Inside the stadium is again very easy on the eye, the legroom and views are excellent, and the capacity has been sensibly pitched to suit the level of support and to give the stadium an intimate feel. The programme was surprisingly priced at just £2.00, and was excellent value for money, having plenty of interesting material to read whilst omitting the endless articles of dubious interest that one often finds in the larger and more expensive publications usually found in the Football League.

Bolton have certainly not adapted well to life in the Championship, so much so that their season has already cost them one manager in Owen Coyle. They found themselves down in 18th place in the 24 team league going into this game, although eight points clear of the relegation zone. Recent results under new manager Dougie Freedman have been pretty uninspiring, drawing five of their last seven games, winning one and losing the other. Charlton have been in good recent form, unbeaten in their last seven games since the shocking 1-4 home defeat to Middlesbrough at the beginning of October, and were unbeaten on the road since 18th September.

On a very overcast but mild day, the first half was a fairly cagey affair, with Bolton playing lots of possession, passing football, but with no threat or penetration whatsoever. Charlton looked to have the more attacking intent, but were let down by poor final balls, and so it was unsurprising that the scoreline remained goalless at half time. One very surprising aspect of the first half was how incredibly quiet the Bolton fans were, giving the stadium a rather eerie feel, only disturbed, apart from the Charlton’s fans chants, by a chorus of boos from the home fans at the half time whistle.

The second half continued in a similar vein, with a bore draw seeming the most likely outcome, until the introduction of Bolton substitutes David N’Gog and Martin Petrov changed the game. On 74 minutes, the substitutes exchanged passes before N’Gog worked some magic before slotting past Ben Hamer in the Charlton goal. Six minutes later and it was 2-0 to Bolton, with a very similar goal to the first one, this time N’Gog combined with Kevin Davies before slotting home. Finally the Bolton fans were stirred into life and to make some noise, and their team was transformed as they should have scored at least one more, but the scoreline remained 2-0. In the end, Premiership quality proved the difference between the two sides, after Bolton had looked surprisingly poor and lacking in ideas throughout the first two thirds of the match, whilst Charlton will be wondering how on earth they did not claim at least a point from this match, with a frustrating feeling of Bolton being “there for the taking”.

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