By Avenell Dave
I have to say that while I fully expected us to beat Everton last weekend, I didn’t have high hopes of getting a result against Bolton.
When it turned out that Samir Nasri was injured and wouldn’t start with Craig Eastmond taking his place, I was even more concerned.
With Owen Coyle taking over, the home side would be keen to impress and show him what they could do and sides usually do well when a new man takes over.
The only good news for us is that Coyle tends to get his sides playing football, none of the rough and tumble that Fat Sam used to make his side play in the past.
If the first 90 seconds was anything to go by, we were going to be in trouble, but as we eased into the game, I was fully impressed by how tow of our more senior players led by example.
The plaudits will go to Cesc Fabregas who showed yet again why he has to be first name on the teamsheet.
Scorer of the first goal and now our leading scorer, the captain gave a captain’s performance and did his best to pull the strings.
The fact that Paul Robinson tried to cut him in half a few times says it all, but he won’t be the last and I wince every time some limited player goes near him.
Given that he hadn’t played for a few weeks and had to give additional support to Eastmond, you have to say that he was inspirational.
It’s hard to be critical of Eastmond in his first start, away from home, and it shows how stretched the squad has become because we simply don’t play rookies away from home in such circumstances unless things are really tough.
He’s done well in the Carling Cup and jumped ahead the likes of Coquelin, but as Wenger said, he has a way to go yet.
If I was Fran Merida, even though he’s not quite so defensive, I’d be very frustrated at starting on the bench with Eastmond ahead of me and the Spaniard’s goal suggests he may have a bigger part to play in the weeks to come.
We need an extra midfielder in there and maybe Merida is the one, even if he is stalling on a new contract.
I said recently that if Merida is the only one who walks away without signing a new deal – and because of his age we get cash for him anyway – it’s not such a big loss.
That said, he looked good when he came on and if he can make as much of an impact as yesterday, he’s got to be worth signing up and giving games to.
A word for Eduardo as well. The Crozilian has struggled a lot with injuries since being cut in half two years ago and he’s lost some pace I think.
But even when he’s not scoring goals, he gets into positions and makes the defence work hard, pulling them this way and that and making space and chances for his team-mates.
I fancy him to score on Wednesday and while goals make strikers, I was thoroughly impressed with him at the Reebok.
A quick word for Manuel Almunia, who did well apart from spilling one simple cross which went out for a corner.
We could go top on Wednesday if we win at home and the way results went at the weekend, this is turning into a three horse race.
We need players back if we’re to stay with the front runners, but if we can keep in there until the end of the month and the mammoth run of games against our rivals, this could start to get seriously interesting.