It’s Time to Give Darren Pratley A Break

pratleyThe West Stand at the Macron Stadium was a hostile place as Bolton eased past Cardiff City on Tuesday night.  At least it was for Darren Pratley.

“Pratley!!!!!!!!!” yelled one spectator, at high volume. any time the ex-Swansea midfielder went near the ball, as though the word itself was an admonishment.

“Keep on walking,” advised another as Pratley went to the touchline to get a drink, during a break in play.  There’s a grim humour in such determined and persistent barracking of one’s own player, even if it is self-defeating.  However, whilst it’s no one’s place to tell those who pay their hard earned cash how to behave, it’s unfair not to give credit where it’s due – and against Russell Slade’s team, it was.

Pratley began the move that led to Liam Feeney’s first goal, and laid on the killer ball across the face of the penalty area for the second.  In between he frequently mopped up after an off colour Mark Davies lost possession.

This isn’t to suggest that there will be Premier League teams waiting to pounce in the January transfer window, for Pratley has been criticised with some justification in the past, but it appears that he has a role to play in Neil Lennon’s plans, and it wouldn’t hurt to give some encouragement.

In the wake of what turned out to be a comfortable victory, most of the plaudits have gone to Craig Donkey Davies and deservedly so.  Regular readers of this site will know that he hasn’t been a favourite, but the big man worked tirelessly and gave Cardiff’s defenders no peace at all.  Such defending from the front gave Bolton’s midfield more space in which to work and allowed a rejuvenated Lee Chung-yong to work his magic.

Whilst there were a number of notable displays, Bolton’s performance as a whole was patchy.  It’s still too easy for the opposition to move the ball through midfield, and going forward the Whites were often ponderous, with misplaced passes aplenty and a lack of movement.    Of course, Project Lennon is still in its infancy and such things will improve with confidence and more familiarity with the new man’s methods.

Disappointments?  The attendance of 12,961 was the lowest for a league game since 2001 and referee  Geoff Eltringham was woefully inconsistent, awarding twenty fouls in favour of the visitors to just five for the home side, mainly because he was fooled by Cardiff’s players falling over more convincingly.  The Welsh side won’t be troubling the top flight any time soon, based on this evidence, but a few members of their squad may be up for an Oscar.

And still the Wanderers remain in 23rd place in the Championship despite three wins in the last five games.  That’s because there are a number of sides in that area of the table who shouldn’t be. Those clubs are now starting to pick up points,  so it will be necessary to wait until the mid-table teams can be reined in, before an ascent can begin.  Based on the last few matches, there shouldn’t be any doubt that that will happen in due course.
– Richard McCormick

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