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Christmas Review - 31/12/2002

   Gareth Farrelly
   Paul Warhurst
   Bolton Wanderers
   Newcastle United

I had a great time at Bolton and decided to drive down to the Reebok to see a few friends. As it happened, of the Bolton team facing us, I’d played alongside eight of them. I had a word with a few people prior to the kick-off, then watched the game with Paul Warhurst and Gareth Farrelly – both good lads…and what it game it was! In a professional sense it was the proverbial ‘bad day at the office’, but for the Bolton fans and neutrals, it must have been an incredible game. As the final whistle blew, the stadium seemed to breath a collective sense of relief, but for us it was more a sense of frustration. I honestly believed that we could have earned a draw – even at 4-1 down. The last ten minutes were backs against the wall for Bolton, and I’m sure we’d have got the equaliser if the game had gone on a few minutes more.

Again we went away from home and scored three goals for no reward. Although people talk of individual mistakes, you have to credit the goal scorers – some of those strikes were fantastic. Okocha’s opener was unstoppable, whilst Gardner’s free kick was something that Beckham would have been proud of – pace and accuracy. Per Frandsen’s cross was perfect for Ricketts and again, his header gave Shay little chance. His second was another good goal, using his frame to hold off OB and then pushing the ball into the corner of the net. Although we had a bit of luck for Shola’s goal, Al’s first was clinical and his second a carbon copy of the Old Trafford free kick. With a result like that, it’s hardly surprising that the Bolton fan’s were in good voice. They then went a got a very creditable draw a Goodison, so perhaps they’ve turned a corner?

With other teams dropping points, it was disappointing not to take advantage, however it also meant we hadn’t lost much ground. The visit of Tottenham offered the chance to get back on track. We’re been fantastic at St. James, the only loss being against Leeds – a game that, to be fair, we murdered them but just couldn’t get the ball past Paul Robinson. Tottenham gave a us a hard time in the first half. After Speedo went off we struggled to hold the ball in midfield. Gus Poyet, who loves to play against us, missed his chance when he hit the ball at Shay. We then took over in the second half and the lads deserve a lot of credit for that, to loose three midfielders in a game is a massive handicap, and to then go on to dominate shows great character and ability.

The injuries are worrying, and it’s quiet ironic that Jamie McClen, after waiting for months on the bench, is now injured and can’t take advantage of the opening. Liverpool have their own problems, with both injury and Danny Murphy suspended. At least with both side weakened it should make for a fairer game.

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