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Well this was as poor a match played at ER that I've seen for a few years. Contrary to Sam Allerdyce's insistence Bolton did come for a draw and they did pack the midfield and defence, a tactic which many many times in the past few years has caused us untold problems at home. The simple fact is that in this situation we just do not know how to break people down.
To be fair the absence of Bowyer, Mills and Smith gave us a lack of cutting edge. However the inclusion of Kelly, an established international, Wilcox, an England International less that 2 years ago and Keane, a supposed superstar in the making should have easily compensated and shown that we have much more strength in depth than of previous year. But they didn't.
The match actually started with us looking like we were going to walk it, we must have had 90% possession in the first 15 minutes, I can't remember Bolton having a touch, the problem was that we did great at getting up the box but then looked around and found no one to pass the ball to and a seething mass of dark blue in the box. Batty and Dacourt resorted to trying ridiculously difficult through balls that were either returned by head to our defence or going out for a goal kick.
Gradually Bolton started to gain confidence and counter-attack, something they, and a lot of these new promoted teams (Ipswich at ER last year a perfect example) are ever so good at when playing us in our back yard. Suddenly Bolton looked a bit dangerous and the rest of the first half consisted of Batty, Dacourt and Kewell standing mid way into the Bolton half trying to work out how to get the ball in the box and every so often giving the ball away for Bolton to charge at Harte and Kelly and create some decent openings.
Only 2 moments of note in the first half were Wilcox being put into oceans of space closing in on the keeper and trying to dummy round him, the keeper however saved very well and Wilcox was unlucky. Also Kewell, playing on the right made his only contribution of the half, skinned the full-back, got o the by-line but hit it straight at the defender to clear.
Second half was pretty much a repeat except we seemed to decide we didn't want the ball now and consistently gave the ball away attempting difficult passes, Dacourt and Batty again the major culprits. Eventually Wilcox left, Bakke came on and things looked a lot more balances, Kewell back on the left, whilst not setting the world on fire looked a lot more dangerous and created a great chance for himself, cutting in, beating two and firing over on his weaker right foot from just inside the box. Then Kelly crossed for Viduka to head wide when, like West Ham, all he had to do was get decent contact.
Bolton looked less impressive in the second and I can't think of any good chances they had but by that time their fans were so happy to be getting a point I think it rubbed off on the players - they really could have got all 3 if they'd played like they did in the first.
In the last few minutes we stepped up half a gear, Keane missed a one on one that I'm certain Smith would have buried and then a penalty appeal was turned down, more due to Kewell's theatricals, it looked a certain pen otherwise.
In summary, we have to know how to finish these teams off.
Martyn : 7 : Did nowt.
There were 2 things about the crowd that surprised me. Firstly why are away sides given 3500 seats in the South Stand which allows their fans to make lots of noise and give their players a lift ? Other grounds don't always afford us such luxuries.
Secondly, if Leeds had a sell out 36,500 fans there - then where are the other 10,000-15,000 supporters we are looking for over the next 3 years supposed to sit in the meantime ? In a blimp ?
I'd give the away fans the 1800 capacity S.East corner and let the "new" Leeds fans fill the South Stand. Surely this is possible.
Well if we play like we did against Bolton we'll be lucky to attract 15 news fans let alone 15,000 of the poor buggers.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 10/09/2001.
"Bolton, Bolton, top of the league" is a cry even more rare than the nightingale's song. The last time the Trotters' supporters had an opportunity to air such sentiments, according to the club, was in 1891 when Bolton won their first four games - although in those days they probably eschewed chants in favour of a manly handshake and a gruff "well done".
Bolton did not quite manage to win four this time, relinquishing the Premiership's last 100% record against Leeds. But a point was sufficient to consolidate their status as leaders and a clean sheet away to one of the undoubted title contenders shows that Sam Allardyce's motley crew of cut-price signings intend to cement their stay.
There is no great secret to their success: they simply bridge any gap in class with superb organisation. On Saturday they played four at the back, with five across midfield and Michael Ricketts as the lone striker, putting the onus on the hosts to try to deprive them of the point they were clearly happy to settle for.
Copy from The Independent of 08/09/2001.
This uninspiring draw may have cost Bolton the last 100 per-cent record in the League, but at least they did enough to prove that their flying start to the season was no fluke. Leeds, who passed up the chance to leapfrog their Lancashire opponents and go top of the Premiership, merely demonstrated that the potential this young side have been showing for so long is still some way from a full flowering.
After a shaky start in the face of early Bolton confidence generated by three straight wins, Leeds gradually assumed the lion's share of possession, but with Bolton dropping back in numbers every time the home side crossed the halfway line, they could not make the decisive incision.
In normal circumstances that might have been supplied by Lee Bowyer, but he and full-back Danny Mills were both suspended and the Leeds engine-room never reached full power. Their best opportunities came at the death, when Robbie Keane raced clear and Bolton's goalkeeper, Jussi Jaaskelainen, saved bravely at his feet, and Harry Kewell was brought down in the box; but the referee chose the diplomatic option and awarded a free-kick on the 18-yard line.
"Kewell was definitely inside the penalty area, but the referee sat on the fence," the Leeds manager, David O'Leary, said afterwards. "We had a lot of possession and chances, but it was up to us to take them and we didn't."
The best of them came from free-kicks, with their full-back Ian Harte looking the most likely to breach Bolton's defences, but when the Wanderers' wall failed to do its job, Jaaskelainen did his. Kewell had the best chances from open play, but he hoisted the ball over the bar after cutting in from the left and snatched at a shot when a path to goal opened up down the inside-left channel.
Bolton's attacking ambitions petered out early on, but not before they had caused some panic in a jittery Leeds back four which backed off as Henrik Pedersen ran at them to force a corner. Kevin Nolan and Michael Ricketts were both allowed attempts at converting Bo Hansen's corner before the ball was finally scrambled away. Dominic Matteo's poor back-pass to goalkeeper Nigel Martyn almost let in Ricketts again before Per Frandsen ran at them again to force another corner.
But it was Bolton's defensive discipline that earned them their point, and Colin Hendry and Paul Warhurst, neither of whom survived pre-match fitness tests, were scarcely missed.
Bolton's manager, Sam Allardyce, said afterwards: "Everybody did what they knew they had to do and stood up to one of the top sides in the Premiership. This is as good as anything we've done this season. To get a goalless draw at Elland Road is a fantastic result for us."
And if Elland Road no longer intimidates sides from the wrong side of the Pennines, maybe Leeds have taken the right decision to move elsewhere.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 08/09/2001.
Bolton Wanderers lost their 100 per cent record but won fresh belief that they can hold their heads high in the FA Barclaycard Premiership. They displayed organisation, commitment and sheer hard work to deny Leeds United victory. It was far from the greatest of spectacles, but Bolton weren't complaining as their 4-5-1 formation proved so difficult to break down.
David O'Leary had warned his Leeds side that they could be in for a frustrating afternoon against a side continuing to play with five men strung across midfield, leaving Michael Ricketts to plough a loan furrow up front. That was just how it turned out, certainly in the first 45 minutes.
Bolton offered Ricketts support with players coming through from midfield and the way they went about their task showed just why they had made such a successful start to the season.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 10/09/2001.
THE thin line between success and failure was never more apparent than in the dying seconds of this dire encounter at Elland Road.
For just a split second it seemed as though the tireless wait for something interesting to happen might just have been worth it as Robbie Keane bore down on goal with a chance to snatch the winner.
The crowd, starved of any real action all afternoon, jumped to their feet and held their breath in anticipation as the young Irishman burst away from the trailing defence and steadied himself for glory.
Unfortunately for Robbie and for the fans that thin line was not quite breached as Bolton's Scandinavian stopper Jussi Jaaskelainen pulled off a quite brilliant save to earn his side a point.
And to be fair that is just what the division's new boys deserved after matching a United side which once again struggled to find the fluidity and fantastic football which set the Premiership and Europe alight last season.
Their passing was poor, they failed to create many good chances and at the back they often made life hard for themselves by failing to clear their lines.
Leeds were not good to put it bluntly. But there is no need to start getting hysterical just yet. David O'Leary's boys are still in the top three, they are still unbeaten and they have only conceded one goal in 360 minutes of football.
Everybody knows they can and will get better once the season gets into full swing. And there is no doubting that picking up points when you are not firing on all cylinders is a good habit to get into.
Last season United lost to the likes of Manchester City and Ipswich as they grew frustrated at the lack of a break-through and pushed forward leaving gaps at the back.
There were no such problems on Saturday as skipper Rio Ferdinand ensured his troops came away with something even if it was not the full cache of points everyone had been expecting.
Manager David O'Leary will bemoan the lack of a killer touch at vital times and he will be upset that referee Steve Bennett did not point to the penalty spot when Harry Kewell was tripped, seemingly inside the box, late on.
He knows about the dividing line all too well and is well aware that you have to take those opportunities if you are to pick up the points and compete for the honours.
"I did not think this was ever going to be a pretty game," he said. "Bolton are doing well in the set way that they play and we knew it was going to be a tough game.
"We knew we were going to have a lot of possession and we also knew that we were going to have chances and we had two good opportunites, Jason Wilcox missing one in the first half and Robbie Keane right at the end there.
"You have got to be patient. We know we can play better but the difference between us taking away one point or three is if Robbie Keane sticks the ball in the net.
"I felt that we were the ones who controlled the game and I knew that if a chance came then we would have to take it to win the game. It did come but we did not take it."
United had similar problems against Southampton on the opening day of the campaign and only won the match thanks to some inspired football from substitute striker Alan Smith.
Bolton played with five across the midfield, snubbing out any United efforts to play their brand of attacking football.
But O'Leary knows teams will come to Elland Road with a packed defence or midfield and look to snuff out any hope the Whites might have of playing attractive football.
O'Leary, however, believes his side is learning how to cope with that attitude.
"Bolton came here looking to not get beat and the onus was on us to try and break them down," he said. "These games are not the best but it is important that you keep plugging away and plugging away for that one chance.
"Manchester United are a prime example. Toward the end of the game they will get a chance and they will score. We had that today and we didn't.
"The keeper made a great save and it was the difference between one point and three. Nobody means to miss chances but that is the dividing line. Had Robbie scored that then we would have been looking at three points but saying, 'hey we can play better'.
"The dividing line in football is so marginal but I do think we are learning. Last year, in games like this, we would have lost. That is a positive and if we can keep laying the foundations for this season then I am sure we will be there or thereabouts come May."
Keane was not the only Leeds player hanging his head after missing a glorious chance. Wilcox, in the side for the suspended Lee Bowyer, also had a great chance as broke down the left and cut inside only to see Jaaskelainen make a good block.
The only other real threat came from the predictable source of Ian Harte who had a total of five free-kick efforts during the match.
One, just before the break almost broke the deadlock but Jaaskelainen was equal to it, palming it away down low to his left. A rasper in the second half was also well saved by the Bolton number one who was plucked from the Finland leagues two seasons ago.
Bolton themselves created little in the way of clear-cut chances. Ricketts did cause problems with his muscle and bustle but Ferdinand was quite outstanding once again for the home defence and never really gave anyone in a dark shirt the time to settle on the ball.
A point was a fair result and kept intact both team's unbeaten records. But O'Leary will know that his side should be beating the likes of Bolton and he will be hoping they can find their top form sooner rather than later.