Bolton Wanderers manager Dougie Freedman goes on the defensive
AFTER watching Wanderers labour in successive home draws against Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, Dougie Freedman’s pragmatic vow to have his team “hang on” when they next take the lead won’t be what many fans wanted to hear.
Already accused by some for being too negative in his approach, the embattled Whites boss appears willing to risk further criticism as he searches for a way of turning one point into three.
Freedman’s side have squandered 11 points from winning positions this season, which equates to 13 places in the Championship table.
No wonder then that the manager is willing to speak so frankly about his plan to go safety first in the future.
“It might now be a case of how we hold on to what we have got, rather than going on to try and score two or three, which is what I think the fans deserve,” admitted Freedman in the light of another frustrating result and another lost lead on Saturday.
Perversely, Freedman looked to have named a more attacking line up when he switched to a 4-4-2 against the Tractor Boys, employing David Ngog alongside Jermaine Beckford up front.
Unfortunately, Wanderers suffered from the same lack of creative spark that they had a week earlier against Wednesday.
The front two looked isolated in front of a defensive-minded pair of midfielders in Medo Kamara and Jay Spearing and two wide men in Chung-Yong Lee and Neil Danns who are anything but natural wingers.
The more cynically minded may wonder just how more defensive Freedman’s team could get after such an unadventurous performance.
Desperate times may call for desperate measures and oddly enough, a long trip to Bournemouth looks the ideal kind of venue to hone a defensive plan.
Eddie Howe’s Cherries have only failed to score in one game out of 15 in all competitions this season, against Watford, and the two Lancastrian visitors to Dean Court – Blackburn and Blackpool – are the only sides to have emerged with three points.
How it goes down at home against Millwall when the Whites return to home turf a week on Saturday is a different matter altogether.
With finances tight the answer to how Wanderers will start to make progress in the table will have to come from within ahead of Saturday’s game at Dean Court.
Darren Pratley sat on the bench for the second successive game last weekend but might well be the man with the right mix between attack and defence to carry out Freedman’s plan.
Wanderers have drawn four and lost once without the energetic midfielder in the team this season and speaking to The Bolton News last week he spoke about being out of the first team equation.
“Personally it is frustrating when you are not getting a run of games,” he said.
“You need that to perform at your best in my view. But competition for places is good for the club as a whole.
“Naturally, it is disappointing when you are the one out of the team.
“When you are in you just have to do your best and hopefully you will get picked again.
“As long as you have a shirt, it is up to you to keep it by performing.
“Our best players, in my opinion, Chung-Yong Lee and Chris Eagles, have been in and out.
“It shows there is a lot of competition for places when players who would walk into the first team at most other Championship clubs are not getting a game.”
With Freedman planning to batten down the hatches, it could mean a longer wait for some of the players Pratley had in mind.
Attacking quartet Craig Davies, Andre Moritz, Rob Hall and Chris Eagles have all been benched in recent weeks.
Both Davies and Moritz have yet to convince the manager they are fit enough to warrant a start, while youngster Hall is still being eased into regular football.
Eagles’ issue would seem to be one of form and confidence, with the former Manchester United man looking well short of the player who carried Wanderers through the first half of last season.
Three points at Bournemouth could ease the tension by the next time Freedman and his team come back to the Reebok and cause him to rethink his insurance plan.
What effect defeat would have on a home atmosphere already at tipping point is hardly worth thinking about.