by David Sweeney
With Bolton hitting rock bottom in the Prem following yet another home defeat, this time to Aston Villa, is it time for Owen Coyle to go? Southampton’s goalkeeper had a terrible afternoon, producing an amateurish performance that undoubtedly made the Saints drop two points. We look at how yet again West Ham self destruction means that they couldn’t take advantage of Southampton’s slip. We also drop into the BlueSquare Conference to see if things are really as bleak as they look for Jim Gannon’s Stockport County.
Potentially the easiest mauling to dish out this whole season goes to Southampton’s goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski, who started his first league match in two years on Saturday after regular number one Kelvin Davis was ruled out through injury.
The stand-in Pole looked nervous from the outset, immediately spilling a number of routine saves. Blackpool seemed to acknowledge this and began to try and embarrass him which given his woeful display it was not hard to do. As Ludovic Sylvestre drove in Blackpool’s first meaningful attempt on goal ‘Bart’ strangely parried the ball away with his chest in a seriously unconventional manner. Something was not quite right with Southampton’s stopper; playing in goal is all about confidence and after his shaky start it was only going to get worse. Soon after half time it certainly did. The inexperienced keeper inexplicably let in a tame shot from Blackpool’s Callum McManaman, so tame was the shot that the winger had already turned away to trot back up the pitch. A devastatingly tragic moment for good old ‘Bart’ who must have wanted the ground to swallow him up.
So we can gather from his performance that Bialkowski’s attributes consist of 1) not being able to save shots 2) poor distribution 3) poor vision 4) poor anticipation and finally 5) an inability to catch the ball. Not at all good for a GOALKEEPER.
If Southampton want to remain at the top of the Championship they must hope that first choice keeper Kelvin Davis is fit enough to play next weekend, after this display even if he isn’t he will probably be worth risking
West Ham pressing the self destruct button once more
With Southampton only managing a draw in their early kick-off against Southampton, West Ham had the chance to go top of the table with a win at Reading. However they promptly blew that opportunity in a manner that will cause great concern to manager Sam Allardyce and Irons fans alike.
It was apparent that something was wrong straight from the off. West Ham looked lethargic and were second best all over the pitch. It took them a full 37 minutes to produce their one and only shot on target and the effort itself can only be described as weak at best. Then things went from bad to worse after the hour mark when full back Joey O’Brien – on as a fifth-minute substitute for the injured Guy Demel – was booked for petulantly retaliating after a Noel Hunt tackle. His stupidity seemed to know no bounds as four minutes later he rashly fouled Jobi McAnuff which justifiably earned him a second booking and he was sent off.
The Irons paid for O’Briens indiscipline as 30 seconds later Reading scored which left them with a mountain to climb, that mountain got steeper when Jack Collison let his frustration take over and a red mist descended over the young Welshman when he viciously threw himself at the showboating Jimmy Kebe recklessly causing the Frenchman to hit the deck.
Predictably with nine men West Ham went on to lose 3-0 but the result was a product of their own making, their discipline must improve or they will continue to throw away vital points.
Overall it was a big chance missed for Allardyce and his side who have now wracked up back to back defeats, they must stop the rot as soon as possible if they are going to maintain their promotion push.
If they lost it would signal the club hitting their lowest point due to County’s fall from grace which has been rapid and anything but graceful.
Bolton Wanderer’s slumped to their 17th defeat in 20 league games after the 2-1 home defeat to Aston Villa. After a bright start to life at the Reebok manager Owen Coyle has quickly become a figure of resentment amongst Trotters supporters. In my opinion he is tactically inept and once his positive outlook and beginners luck wore off towards the back end of last season it’s clear he has no idea of how to set a team up in order to win a game of football. He puts to much faith in players who are full of fancy flicks and tricks who are great when everything is going well but useless when you need a bit of bottle and willingness to put a shift in for the team. His team selections are becoming more baffling by the week and, in the main, his transfer dealings have been catastrophic. Coyle was very fortunate with the first couple of loan signings he made by bringing in Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge but since then his buys have been dreadful. Summer signings Gael Kakuta and Darren Pratley are not up to the standard of the Premier League. He also blundered by selling Ali Al-Habsi, potentially one of the top 5 keepers in the league and kept Jussi Jaskelainen who despite being a good servant to the club is on the decline.
Rumours suggest that Bolton chairman Phil Gartside cannot afford to sack him, but the fact of the matter is that Coyle will take Bolton down, and I would not bet against them staying there. The rot started a long time ago, most people do not realise that the Wanderers went from Christmas Day to the end of last season without winning a single game away in the League. The popular myth that their devastating defeat at Wembley to Stoke City started the decline is false and in my view it only confirmed my beliefs that Coyle was naive and his inability or lack of will to learn lessons from that debacle have meant Bolton have been slowly sliding downhill ever since and now they have hit rock bottom it is going to be very difficult for them to escape.
Even with the return of former manager Jim Gannon, who impressively steered the club to League One in his previous spell in charge, Stockport County have struggled and Gannon unfortunately has not made the impact he desired, with defeats in every league game he has taken charge of, including a demoralising 7-0 loss at Grimsby Town.
Yesterday County embarrassingly faced up against Stalybridge in the FA Trophy at Edgeley Park in a no-win tie for the club. If they lost it would signal the club hitting their lowest point due to County’s fall from grace which has been rapid and anything but graceful. If they somehow managed a win then nobody would bat an eyelid as ‘Bridge are from the division below. Ultimately the match ended in a 2-2 draw with the visitors playing with ten men for half an hour. Shamefully for Gannon’s men Matt Glennon, the Stockport keeper was man of the match. So why is it County are so dire? Well the obvious answer is that the team is terrible, which admittedly it is but the reasons behind the clubs fateful fall run far deeper.
Currently occupying a place in the BlueSquare Premier relegation zone, Stockport fans have suffered more than most in recent years. The tragic tale of the Cheshire clubs decline centralises around going into an exceedingly long and drawn out administration period which led to a points deduction and two relegations added to the fact that numerous chancers have attempted to gain control of the club. Whilst unfortunately stable ownership is yet to be found. Unless there is dramatic turnaround they will almost certainly be relegated which could well spell the end for this good, honest, family club. Let’s just hope Jim Gannon can pick up the broken pieces he has to work with and somehow manage to glue them back together in order for the club to get back to where they belong.