Failure to hold on to a lead is costing Whites dear
WANDERERS’ failure to hold on to a lead cost them dear against fellow strugglers Millwall on Saturday – and it has been something of an Achilles heel for Dougie Freedman’s side this season.
The Scot was again satisfied with his team’s overall display at The Den, citing profligacy up front as the main reason his side did not get a much-needed three points.
Certainly, a successful penalty conversion from Lukas Jutkiewicz 13 minutes from time could have led to a different outcome after the loan striker had opened the scoring with his second goal in three matches.
But the boss must be concerned his side still look incapable of holding a lead.
Freedman has been pleased with the way his side have started recent matches; going 2-0 up at home to Bournemouth and even being the dominant side against high-flying Burnley a week ago before being caught by a sucker-punch.
But it is not so much the starts as the inability to build on those early exchanges that have let down Wanderers.
In two of their last three matches, they have been in charge only to walk away with a solitary point – something of a recurring theme.
The Whites have taken the lead in 13 of their 31 Championship matches this season but gone on to win just six. In the other seven, they have drawn six and lost once – at Brighton, when they let a 1-0 lead slip to lose 3-1 in September.
Five of those draws have been on home turf, where they have dropped 10 points from winning positions against Reading, Derby, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich and that recent 2-2 draw with Bournemouth, though the Derby clash actually saw the Whites rescue a point with an equaliser after going 2-1 down.
It is a trend Freedman will hope to end with back-to-back home games on consecutive weekends against Watford on Saturday, and then in the derby clash with Blackburn on March 1.
Scoring more goals to reflect the positive starts needs to go hand in hand with a defensive stubbornness to protect a lead.
The boss has regularly stressed the need to eradicate individual mistakes and play for the full 90-plus minutes.
And home turf has been where the problem has maninfested itself.
Their home defensive record is only bettered by three other teams in the bottom half of the table, the odd goal usually being the reason for not registering more than two victories from their 15 Reebok dates.
But when they do concede, as they have in 14 of those 15 home matches, they need to fire at the opposite end.
And only three teams in the entire division (Blackpool, Charlton and Yeovil) have scored fewer goals on home turf than Wanderers’ tally of 18.
In contrast, the six times Bolton have scored first on the road have yielded four of their six league wins – one of those coming against this weekend’s opponents Watford.
If they can transfer that sort of form to home soil, it would certainly help the nervousness on and off the pitch in the remaining eight matches at the Reebok.