"Use your body and your brain, if you wanna play the game."
Both Bolton Wanderers and Millwall found themselves in the bottom half of the Championship table and with recent defeats for both sides before the international break, the trapdoor towards the third tier of English football has been creaking slightly louder of late. Both sides needed a win, both sides needed to instil some belief back into their suffering fans and both sides needed to put on a performance that would show they are back in the right direction. Unfortunately for the supporters of both sides, this game would be more like an 80’s game show where the contestants would be slipping and sliding in gunge filled environments and the end result would be more based on good fortune than skill.
The game had a slow start and although there were some moments of backwards and forwards action, both sides failed to get a hold of the game and the opening few minutes was nothing more than some wayward passing, chasing shadows and some hopeful long balls from the home side.
The first real piece of action was in the 6th minute when Will Buckley broke into the penalty area after losing his man. The Trotters striker went down in the penalty area and both he and his team mates screamed for a spot kick, but the Pat Sharp in the middle of the park waved away the decision and adjudged the attacker to have lost his footing.
Only a minute later, Wanderers would’ve been 1-0 up if it hadn’t been for the superb goalkeeping from the returning Jordan Archer. After making himself look big to deny a certain goal from a one-on-one situation, Archer managed to get back on his goal line and produce a superb save when he pushed Jason Lowe’s goal bound effort wide for a corner.
Although neither side really threatened, Bolton looked the more likely to score and found themselves in the lead in the 12th minute when an unmarked Mark Beevers headed home a cross from the far post from close range. Like the leading car in the Fun House Grand Prix, Bolton were in the driving seat and leading the race.
It was halfway through the first half when the game sparked into life and surprisingly it did not involve the two teams on the pitch. The match day official, who himself was a last-minute replacement for the scheduled referee, found himself with a leg injury and unable to complete the game and the half. After an elongated period of time, one of the match day assistants took the whistle and the game resumed.
After more unconvincing play from both sides, Millwall’s first real moment of class in the first half came from a lovely weighted pass over the Bolton defence from Ryan Leonard towards Lee Gregory. Racing towards goal, Gregory appeared to be through but the ball got tangled in the striker’s feet and Bolton managed to clear their lines.
The last attack of the half had the Millwall players and staff asking themselves how they were not back level. In first half injury time, Lee Gregory superbly cut the ball back to Ryan Leonard, but his effort was saved by Alnwick in the Bolton goal. Sensing the goal open and the opportunity to get his side back in contention, Aiden O’Brien raced into the box like a contestant on an inflatable assault course and tried to beat the visiting ‘keeper, but his effort was also blocked and the third try that looped over Alnwick’s head was cleared off the goal line by Mark Beevers. The first half ended with the home team behind and Bolton the ones in pole position.
The opening moments of the second half unfortunately mirrored that of the first and had very few moments of quality from either side. In the 50th minute the visitors were nearly 2-0 up, but a good save from Jason Lowe’s effort by Jordan Archer saw the score-line remain with the visitors in the lead by one.
The Lions had another opportunity to draw level in the 63rd minute after Shane Ferguson’s cross found a Millwall body in the Bolton penalty area, but James Meredith and Lee Gregory’s efforts were kept out by the impressive Alnwick between the Trotters’ posts.
Millwall had been gradually increasing the pressure throughout the second half and after a superb run across the penalty area from Shane Ferguson, it was the Lions who rippled the back of the net in the 82nd minute. After taking what felt like a lifetime to cross the ball in from the right-hand side, the ball landed at the feet of Jiri Skalak and the Czech international blasted an effort inside Alnwick’s far post. There were questions of whether this took a deflection on the way in from Jake Cooper, but either way, the home fans cheered more than the cockerel crowing when the Power Prize was discovered.
Both sides had chances in the dying minutes of the game to snatch victory, but the final whistle sounded and the game ended a draw. This was a score line that did not benefit neither side in this potential six-pointer, but luckily for Neil Harris, it means that the Lions finish the weekend outside the bottom three and away from the chaotic Fun House that is League One.
Millwall: Archer, McLaughlin (Romeo 60'), Meredith (Skalak 77'), Hutchinson, Cooper, S. Williams, J. Wallace, Gregory, Ferguson, Elliott (O'Brien 37'), Leonard.
Subs not used: Martin, Tunnicliffe, Karacan, M. Wallace.
Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick, Taylor, Lowe, Beevers, Ameobi, Buckley (noone 70'), Olkowski, Wilson, J. Williams, Magennis (Donaldson 46'), Wheater.
Subs not used: Matthews, Vela, Doidge, Hobbs, Wildschut.