Sheffield Wednesday fans should take no notice of Bolton Wanderers manager Dougie Freedman’s assertion that the hosts deserved the point they picked up from Saturday’s tussle.
Freedman, a man under pressure, with the Trotters lying third from bottom in the Championship, defiantly claimed it would have been an injustice had the Lancashire outfit lost.
The Scot also insisted their showing was “good” and said the team were “brave on the ball”. I appreciate Freedman is going through a tough period in his managerial career and needs to put a positive spin on a home draw but he clearly was watching a different match to everybody else in the ground.
Wednesday completely outplayed Bolton and had four times as many shots as them, doing everything but score. The visitors had 24 attempts at goal but only four of those efforts were on target.
As a deflated Owls boss Stuart Gray pointed out after the goalless draw, his team should have tested Bolton goalkeeper Andy Lonergan more. But Wednesday will play an awful lot worse between now and May and win.
Bolton, without a league win this term, looked a nervy side bereft of confidence. It took them 55 minutes to register their one and only shot on target, Jay Spearing’s low drive which was comfortably gathered by Keiren Westwood. The Republic of Ireland was a virtual spectator throughout.
Indeed, the hosts were booed off at half-time and after the final whistle. There were even jeers when Freedman took off Mark Davies and replaced him with Darren Pratley.
The second period was one of the most one-sided halves of football I can remember. I started to get neck ache towards the end from having to look so much to my right-hand side!
What let Gray’s charges down was their decision-making and lack of composure in the final third. As the Wednesday head coach readily admits, it is the final touch of a football which is the most important.
“We do shooting every day in training,” said Gray. “You need a bit of calmness. People were snatching at things and are trying to smash it into the net. Top, top players just roll it into the net and I think we had two or three opportunities to pass it in.”
There were times when the service into strikers Atdhe Nuhiu and Stevie May could have been better but Wednesday still should have come away with maximum points.
Chris Maguire had three shots alone in the first half, one of which was hacked off the line by Matt Mills.
May saw his volley in the 19th minute ruled out after referee Andy Haines blew for a foul on Nuhiu in the build-up.
Gray said: “I was surprised when the referee gave a foul against Attey. I was disappointed it was disallowed.”
After the break, Joe Mattock’s downward header from Maguire’s corner looped over the top as the Owls continued to ask all the questions.
Royston Drenthe came on for his debut, having arrived from Reading on loan. His direct style of play threatened to unlock Bolton’s unconvincing back four.
“When Royston came on, their left-back had been booked so I just wanted to cause him a problem,” said Gray. “I felt we needed something a little different.
“Even he could have had a hat-trick. It’s disappointing. In training all week, Royston had been picking out the bottom corner but for some reason he was lashing at it. He will cause people problems but we have to drown him with the ball.”
Lonergan, Bolton’s man of the match, produced fine stops to deny Nuhiu and Liam Palmer while May flashed a shot narrowly wide from distance. Giles Coke also twice blazed over.
Centre-back Tom Lees saw his header from Drenthe’s corner cleared off the line in the dying stages before Drenthe curled over when well-placed.
“We have to keep recreating those moments on the training pitch,” said Gray. “The boys will be disappointed because we should definitely have won a fourth away game in a row. I’m gutted. I just cannot believe it finished 0-0.”
Gray took little satisfaction from Wednesday recording a fifth clean sheet of the campaign.
“It doesn’t make me happy because I’ve got those chances flashing through my head,” he said. “Joe Mattock with his header from the corner. Tom Lees with his header cleared off the line. Royston’s chance at the end. It was such a one-sided game.”
“I’m delighted with the way we are playing and performing,” stressed Gray. “We are creating chances.
“The players don’t mean to miss. They are disappointed but have thrown two points away. The players have to start taking responsibility and sticking the ball in the net.
“There were probably times when we went into games last season where we probably needed to score from one or two chances.
“We have to keep believing and playing the way we are doing and some team will suffer.”
Kamil Zayatte, selected at centre-back over new boy Claude Dielna, impressed and will be looking to retain his place in the side against Birmingham City tomorrow. However, skipper Glenn Loovens will be pushing for a return, having served a one-match ban for collecting five bookings.
Gray said: “Kamil’s performance at Burnley was excellent and I thought he was against Bolton. He was dominant and strong. It was a nice day for Keiren in goal because the lads defended well in front of him. Tom [Lees] was also fantastic.”
Defensively Wednesday look solid and organised. It is at the other end of the field where Gray’s men need to be far more efficient.
Bolton: Lonergan 7; Ream 5, Mills 6, Ream 6, Moxey 5; Spearing 5, Garvan 5**; Chung-Yong 6, M Davies 6* Feeney 5, Mason 6***. Substitutes: Pratley* 65 5 Beckford** 65 5, C Davies*** 76, 5. Unused: Fitzsimons, Hughes, Medo, Danns.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood 6; Palmer 7, Lees 7, Zayatte 7, Mattock 7; Maguire 6*, Semedo 8, Coke 7, Maghoma 6; Nuhiu 7, May 7. Substitute: Drenthe 61* 6, Unused: Kirkland, Buxton, McCabe, Helan, Madine, Dielna.