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Match Report: Fulham 2 - 0 Bolton Wanderers (Bolton Fan's Perspective)

By Rob
Sunday 18th December 2011
A pathetic defensive display from Bolton Wanderers laid an easy three points on a plate for a free-flowing Fulham side at Craven Cottage.

The hosts dominated the game from start to finish and realistically the dominance of their performance should have brought more goals than the two they managed. Yet another defeat for the visitors - their 13th loss in 16 matches this season - leaves Wanderers rooted to the bottom of the Premiership, now 5 points away from safety.

Nigel Reo-Coker had an early chance for Bolton, but that early promise was swiftly eradicated as Fulham seized control of the match and seemed able to carve open their opponents' defence at will. Had it not been for the defensive awareness of Gary Cahill, the final scoreline would have been far more embarrassing.

Andy Johnson enjoyed free reign of Bolton's final third all afternoon, with his opponents seemingly not feeling the need to mark him. While marauding runs from midfield from the likes of Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele were consistently not picked up by the Bolton midfield. This yielded a hatful of chances in the opening half hour, with Johnson missing when clean through on goal twice and John Arne Riise denied by Jussi Jaaskalainen and Brede Hangeland missing a close-range header.

Fulham eventually made their early pressure tell and effectively killed the game off with two quickfire goals just after the half hour mark. On 32 minutes Dembele was once again given freedom to run from midfield, and he fed the ball out to the left allowing winger Bryan Ruiz to float over a cross for Dempsey to convert with a top-class header into the bottom corner. Two minutes later Dempsey returned the favour for Ruiz, feeding a ball through the middle of Bolton's non-existent defence for Ruiz to race onto and finish with a delightful chip over the onrushing Jaaskalainen.

Mark Davies should have halved the deficit just before half-time but could only hit his shot straight at goalkeeper David Stockdale, following a nice Bolton move down the right wing. A woeful first half performance from the visitors saw them going in at the break already doomed to defeat and with the side showing no passion for the fight the Bolton supporters were showing very little hope.

The starting line-up Owen Coyle selected was baffling. Having last week gone into the match with Aston Villa with no holding midfielders, this time around Coyle went selected 4 central midfielders, losing all creativity and balance from the side. Chris Eagles, Bolton's best player all season and the only guy with an ounce of flair in the team, was bizarrely dropped leaving the hopeless Darren Pratley to fill the right side of midfield void. The selection totally backfired on Coyle. Fabrice Muamba - who steals a living as a professional footballer, being a midfielder who can't pass, can't shoot and has no composure on the ball - once again failed to fulfil his role in the central midfield holding role, allowing the Fulham midfield to break at will and providing zero protection to his back four. The only times Bolton did threaten to make something happen was when Mark Davies cut in from the left hand side and ran at the Fulham defence, but that happened far too infrequently.

Coyle did respond in the second half by throwing on Eagles for Pratley and Gretar Steinsson for the out of his depth Dedryck Boyata. But realistically the game was up and the Bolton side never really threatened to get back into the game. Fulham showed little in the second half, seemingly knowing they already had the three points sewn up, but could have added more goals had it not been for the performance of Cahill. The visitors did waste a few chances  in the second half, through Muamba and the dreadful David Ngog, who simply isn't a Premiership striker as his goal return of 2 goals in 42 matches testifies, and a decent long-range from Eagles.

Bolton now go into a huge relegation six-pointer with Blackburn on Tuesday evening simply desperate for a victory. The side seems to have given up the fight and look doomed for the Championship next season. Coyle's baffling team selections are not helping the situation, but the manager is being let down by senior players not delivering. Club captain Kevin Davies, although he has been a magnificent servant to the club, is just too old and his legs seem to have gone, while his strike partner Ivan Klasnic just doesn't work hard for the team.

On the basis of the performance against Fulham there's only one team I can see winning at Ewood Park, and that does not bode well for Bolton - who if they lose the game would be 4 points adrift of the rest of the league at Christmas. Pundits keep on saying Bolton are 'too good to go down' and will drag themselves to safety, but the Fulham game showed that is a load of nonsense. Coyle needs to make something change, and fast as time is swiftly running out for the Wanderers to survive this season.

Fulham: Stockdale; Baird, Senderos, Hangeland, JA Riise; Ruiz, Etuhu, Murphy, Dempsey; Dembele, Johnson. Unused subs: Etheridge, Kelly, Hughes, Gecov, Frei, Sa, Duff.

Goals: Dempsey (32), Ruiz (34)

Bolton: Jaaskalainen; Boyata (Steinsson 46), Cahill, Knight, Alonso; Pratley (Eagles 46), Muamba, Reo-Coker, M Davies; K Davies (Ngog 56), Klasnic. Unused subs: Bogdan, Robinson, Petrov, Tuncay.

Total articles: 69

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