BIG MATCH REWIND: Patience is key to style revolution

First published in Sport The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , chief football writer

FROM “ole” to “oh no” in the short space of four days – have Wanderers fans now got the patience to watch their own team at home?

If Dougie Freedman is to succeed where others have failed and make a passing brand of football work at the Reebok, it is safe to say he will need a hand from the locals.

At Blackburn last Wednesday night, the plan was working perfectly.

Up until the last 15 minutes at least, the Whites stroked the ball around confidently before launching their attacks, much to the delight of the 3,500 travelling fans.

Fast forward to the weekend, and save for a hurly-burly 20 minutes at the start, the fluency had all but disappeared. Attempts to pass square were being condemned by some on the terraces and it became clear that certain players had lost their spark altogether.

Was this a product of some playing three matches in eight days? Or does Freedman’s squad rotation system play its part in the problem?

The formation – a narrow 4-4-2 with Chris Eagles and Mark Davies on opposite wings – was another alteration from the win at Ewood Park.

But I think a comment made by the Wanderers boss after the final whistle explained a lot.

“We learned that with 20 minutes to go we can’t see a game out,” said the Scot. “We need to play a certain way.”

Whether the “certain way” conflicts with the possession-based brand of football Freedman is trying to introduce is the interesting thing.

Having a target like Kevin Davies up front has acted as a natural safety net for panicking defenders and midfielders for several years, so perhaps the Whites boss needs to find a blend of old and new style for now.

Owen Coyle never quite managed to completely rid the team of route one, whatever was said about the brand of attacking football played in the good times.

Most likely, though, it comes down to confidence. That fragility was often discussed under Coyle’s reign and Wanderers’ inability to play at home was also a problem for his predecessor, Gary Megson.

Freedman has spoken a lot about changing the mentality of the football club top to bottom, and judging by the evidence of Saturday's performance, that is not something he is going to solve overnight.

It was, of course, only the second defeat at the Reebok this season so there is no need for over-reaction.

Reading were only two points better off at the same stage of last season and ended up romping the Championship title.

If we are to get that particular bandwagon rolling then it may well require a little patience, or a major service in the January transfer window.

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