After a chain of positive results which saw Bolton Wanderers undefeated in three league outings; Neil Lennon’s side slipped to a narrow defeat on Saturday afternoon, away at Brighton and Hove Albion in a five-goal thriller on the south coast.
The fixture was of course overshadowed by the death of long-standing Chairman, Phil Gartside (February 10), at the age of 63 – an event which has put not just football, but life into perspective. The news of his untimely passing has hit everyone associated with the club hard.
Becoming the Chairman of the club back in October 1999; Gartside oversaw some of the more successful times in Bolton’s history – consistent top eight finishes, two European campaigns and 11 years in the English top-flight.
Relations between the board and supporters may have deteriorated following relegation to the second-tier in May 2012, however, perhaps the events of the last week can be used as momentum for the current crop of players to get out of the mess they find themselves embroiled in.
On the pitch; individual errors proved to be Wanderers downfall at the Amex Stadium, with the promotion chasing Seagulls coming away with a 3-2 victory, leaving Bolton left propping down the standings once again. They are now seven points adrift of safety.
The result at the hands of Chris Hughton’s team created a sense of two-steps forward, one-step back, given the brief upturn in fortune that Bolton endured in the last few weeks.
In what was always going to be a tough game; for several reasons, Brighton were ahead after 11 minutes thanks to Jamie Murphy’s composed finish.
Evergreen forward; Emile Heskey, who has impressed in recent encounters, levelled the scores for the visitors shortly afterwards, though the Sussex side regained the initiative just shy of the interval, courtesy of Tomer Hemed.
Jay Spearing notched a second equaliser for the Greater Manchester outfit early on in the second-half, with his driven effort from the edge of the box.
Just prior to the hour-mark; a former Celtic colleague of Lennon’s, Beram Kayal, profited from Mark Davies’ mistake in possession by arrowing a low effort beyond Ben Amos, which zipped off the wet turf.
The club face another date at the High Court with HMRC on February 22, over an unpaid tax bill, creating more nervous anticipation amongst fans.
Summer recruitment was limited like never before, Bolton lost a hefty part of their playing squad – and the subsequent replacement to fill the void were signed on either free transfers or season-long loan deals – with some of those signings performing more admirably than others.
The next few weeks and months will show a real test of character within the playing squad; separating those who want to fight for the cause, and those who don’t. These players are not only playing for the future and well-being of Bolton Wanderers, but also, their own personal pride and careers.
Thoughts now turn to the run-in, as Wanderers tackle an out-of-sorts Queens Park Rangers side at the Macron Stadium this coming Saturday.
Recent weeks had seen the green shoots of recovery haul Bolton back into the survival mix. Considering their position at the foot of the table, the beleaguered side have attained 20 of their 24 points on home soil, and are placed in 15th position for points gained at the Macron Stadium this season.
Should Bolton manage to get something against a Hoops side who have stuttered on their travels, it would give us all increased hope that the great escape remains a possibility.