Following a first period full of intent from the home side, the sending-off of Newcastle’s Ryan Taylor significantly altered the aesthetic of a game which ultimately petered out to a 1-1 draw. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew labelled this game as one they could not afford to lose for the sake of their season, and Joey Barton’s withdrawal, due to injury, just minutes prior to kick-off may have cost them a pivotal victory.
Throughout the first period Newcastle’s goalscorer Kevin Nolan played to his strengths as he continued to locate pockets of space between the midfield and forward lines, with Bolton unsure of who should be tracking him. Luis Enrique continued his impressive season by giving the home side a constant outlet down the left, and his incessant marauding meant Jonas Gutierrez had a man-made decoy allowing him to cut inside – after the first third of this game a home win seemed a formality.
Although Bolton’s away record has been poor this season, Owen Coyle’s troops could take heart from two victories on the road in as many weeks – and their shape seemed to indicate they had not arrived in the North-East to merely stifle Pardew’s men. Johann Elmander, Kevin Davies and loanee Daniel Sturridge – with four goals in his last four games – all started as Bolton looked to revive a season which has recently threatened to slide into anonymity.
Many people thought Andy Carroll’s departure would point towards a Newcastle decline but they have since lost just one in five, and one man not missing Carroll is Leon Best, who again looked bright.
Ryan Taylor’s dismissal could not be argued by Newcastle as he left the ground with two feet up, and although there was little malice in the challenge, referee Chris Foy had no choice. Newcastle’s attacking threat was significantly diminished after the defender’s exit, and the travelling contingent sensed three points were there for the taking. A dismissal often changes a game in one of two ways; it can act as a catalyst for the depleted side, or it can push them back into their shell. But after a slight alteration in personnel, Newcastle went three across the back and utilised Enrique as a wing-back as they searched out maximum points.
With Cheik Tiote maintaining what little shape Newcastle had, a point apiece from two sides sitting at the top of mid-table was probably a fair result. Despite their one man advantage, Bolton will ironically feel the more satisfied as they ran out of ideas to conjure up a final blow. They failed to capitalise on the extra man and instead of trying to out-pass Newcastle, they kept on with balls into the box to try and utilise their usually dominant aerial threat.
In all honesty the home side looked more adept to steal the points as the game wore on and they will certainly see this as two points dropped. It remains to be seen what effect this will have on both sides’ campaign come May, as they obviously both still harbour hopes of a Europa League spot.