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Fulham 1-0 Bolton Cham 46 1516 - Bolton News

last updated Tuesday 10th May 2016, 11:34 AM

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Marc Iles at The Bolton News

Fulham (0) 1-0 (0) Bolton

COME in Bolton Wanderers, your time in the Championship is up.

We have had plenty of time to get our head around relegation to League One. Fans dressed as beer bottles and Smurfs, pinging around giant inflatable footballs in the sunshine at Craven Cottage have had little but gallows humour on which to cling for months. Good job too, there has been nothing to smile about on the pitch.

There is a perverse excitement about heading into the footballing backwaters once again, of slumming it with the Oxford Uniteds and Oldham Athletics. Then again, that’s what some people felt when the Whites dropped out of the Premier League.

In reality, there is further to fall. And unless Wanderers find a manager and a team to match the devotion and passion of the club’s supporters, many more problems await.

To go out this season with such a whimper is disappointing, yet hardly surprising. Lulled into a false sense of positivity by improved performances and an overdue win against Hull City, some of us felt this was a good time to face Fulham and rid the club of that horrendous away record.

Instead – and in typical Wanderers fashion – two bombshells were dropped the day before the game, shattering that all-too-fragile mentality.

Rob Holding’s withdrawal from the team was upsetting for the lad, perhaps so for his team-mates, but understandable from a business point of view.

If Arsenal have now put substantial money on the table for the 20-year-old it can’t be risked. There has been plenty enough gambling at Bolton this season.

What is more difficult to understand is the timing of redundancies for first-team staff.

Sure, there has been uncertainty in the last couple of months, and some knew the writing was on the wall. But the morale aboard that team coach on Friday morning must have been at an all-time low.

Jimmy Phillips and Peter Reid took on the impossible job and once they were stripped of Liam Feeney and Jay Spearing’s services, it got even harder. Both men have stayed respectful, performed their duties with admirable dignity, but neither were given a realistic chance of being a success.

If any of that sounds like excuse making on behalf of the players, it most certainly is not. In general, they have been dreadful too.

Though David Wheater can hold his head up high for finishing this season strongly, the same cannot be said for many others.

Ben Amos made some terrific saves at Fulham and could do little more to keep his side in the game. Others walked zombie-like through 90 minutes.

Emile Heskey touched the ball 15 times in the 62 minutes he was on the pitch. Ryan Fredericks bettered that in 18 minutes before going off injured.

Fulham attacked at will. Centre-half Dan Burn was able to run 20 yards with the ball unchecked and hit the post, while the excellent Tom Cairney brought a fine reaction save out of Amos with a volley.

Had Slavisa Jokanovic’s side been anything like clinical, who knows how many they could have scored?

Wanderers have improved defensively under Phillips and again protected their penalty box manfully. Oscar Threlkeld looked solid at centre-half, much more so than Derik Osede who was dominated by Fulham’s giant centre-forward Matt Smith early on.

The Whites will come across plenty more front men like Smith next season and one hopes they all exhibit the same wastefulness in front of goal.

The big man won plenty of knock downs from the flurry of first-half corners earned by the home side, but his finishing at times was, thankfully, pretty poor.

The one chance of any note created by Wanderers fell to Heskey, who headed Lawrie Wilson’s cross on to the roof of the net.

Otherwise, Marcus Bettinelli was able to sit back and enjoy the sunshine as the Whites’ inability to keep hold of the ball further up the pitch turned this whole game into a training exercise, attack versus defence.

Amos and Wheater continued their two-man crusade to keep Fulham at bay, one particularly impressive double save from the keeper earning begrudging applause from the home crowd.

But as it looked like Wanderers might just escape with a point, Amos pushed a Smith header into the path of Cairney and he curled a lazy shot into the top corner.

There was no coming back for Bolton. The depth simply isn’t there on the bench to change a game that late.

And so another unwanted record was set as a 26th defeat of the season entered into the books.

If Wanderers are to return to Championship football any time soon, the onus is on Ken Anderson and Dean Holdsworth to make changes.

A club sapped of confidence on their arrival is now further destabilised by the lack of a manager, staff redundancies, players coming out of contract, and others seemingly being sold on.

Those decisions, however unpalatable, may be necessary to secure the future of the club. No-one wants to revisit the High Court any time soon.

But business aside, the loyal fans who have stuck behind the club through this whole ordeal need a pick-me-up too after being put through the emotional wringer.

So for their sake let us consign this season to the past. No more controversy. No more losing mentality. Let this last below-par performance be the last of its kind.

It doesn’t matter whether they are up against Arsenal or Plymouth Argyle, a core of incredible Wanderers fans will stick behind their team. But their patience isn’t limitless and they deserve a team and a manager who is worthy of their loyal support.

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