Even I'm getting a bit fed up of this to be honest with you. Fed up of always going behind and having to claw our way back into the game. Fed up of out strikers seemingly unable to fashion a clear chance. Fed up of defenders who don't seem to have an ounce of brains in their head. Most of all, I'm fed up of Mike Riley. For those who don't follow the ins and outs of Premiership football other than the Wanderers, you will be need to be aware that Mike Riley is probably the most loathed official in the group of Premiership referees and as you can imagine that's up against some pretty stiff competition. I can't think of any club fan I've ever met who has a good word to say about him. In particular, if you've got a good memory you'll recollect Mr Riley sent off two Bolton players in the first half of the home game against Leicester City last season. Groans echoed around the ground when his name was announced before kick off. Little did we know...
Anyway, the game started of pretty reasonably, although the pairing of N'Gotty and Campo showed little signs of real co-operation at the back. Okocha though was clearly in the mood to impress, jinking forward and giving the Brom defenders some trouble.
Unfortunately Bolton's defensive eccentricity (or more accurately, Ivan Campo's eccentricity) caused Bolton's undoing. A silly challenge gave Brom a free kick roughly central 35 yards out. Clement fired a hard shot into the wall but the ball ran on to DEobie who turned and volleyed a shot past Jaaskelainen through a crowded penalty box. So our defending was costing us dear and it was about to get worse. N'Gotty and Roberts tangled as a lofted pass was played forward and Riley whistled then sprinted over. He was waving towards the touchline even as he arrived and he promptly showed Bruno a red card. Bedlam erupted. The stands were in fury, Bolton players were surrounding Riley and things looked like boiling over. Campo, despite being on a yellow already gave Riley enough stick to easily merit a second yellow but thankfully Riley decided better than to cause an outright riot and waved play on. By giving a free kick to Bolton. Can anyone explain why being fouled has suddenly become a red card offense? Replays have shown that N'Gotty did nothing particularly untoward, yet like Gardner last week he had been sent off when apparently the victim. The rest of the half passed in a blur of anger off the pitch and rather hurried play on it, although Bolton had the better of it and Okocha was unlucky not to get an equaliser.
The second half started, preceded by the ludicrous sight of Mr. Riley and his linesmen being escorted out by two policemen in full riot protection. Apart from this being an obvious admission by the police that Riley done something likely to cause a riot (I thought incitement to public disorder was an offense but anyway..) the fact that the police were protected from flying objects (not that there were any) but Riley & co weren't made it even more fatuous.
The second half had a very regular pattern - Bolton attacked and Brom put 10 men inside their own box, with Jason Roberts hanging upfield in the hope of a break. Despite a massive possession advantage, Ronberts still broke away and, bypassing Campo like he was stood still - which given how fast he runs he might as well have been - and forcing Jussi to tip his shot over the bar. At the other end Okocha and Djorkaeff were trying to get the ball through to Ricketts but the packed Brom defense was proving a hard nut to crack. Mendy and Gardner on the wings were seeing a lot of the ball but were crossing early rather than getting to the goal line, which wasn't really working. One good effort actually came from a cross from Ricketts, Djorkaeff ghosting in at the far post to clip the ball goalwards but Hoult made an excellent reaction save.
Despite Bolton's best efforts (which, it has to be said, weren't all that great) it looked like a loss was on the cards until Charlton, on for an obviously tiring Gardner, flighted a ball in and Per Frandsen, who had done absolutely nothing of any great note during the game thus far, rose between the two Brom centre backs and head powerfully past Hoult. Bolton got the very least they deserved but their inability to make more clear chances against a Brom side that virtually abdicated the attack for more than 45 minutes and the defenses seeming joy at shooting itself in the foot AND the absolutely lunatic interventions of Mr Riley meant a draw was a relief. The fact is though unless Bolton gain some defensive steel and sense, they are going to be playing catch up every game and it could be a very long winter.