Bolton Wanderers vs Shrewsbury Town, SkyBet League One, 26/12/16, Macron Stadium
I could start this blog by complaining about the £28 ticket price, I could but I won’t as to be honest I didn’t pay for my ticket, my parents did, as a Christmas present, so that meant that for the three of us, my parent’s paid £84 to watch League One football. £84, ridiculous really. Before the game I sat and worked out that if we had gone to watch Atherton Colleries, all three of us would have been able to get in, get a programme, a pie, a coffee and a pint, and still have change from £40. Now obviously this isn’t a cheap shot at the Bolton fans, as they have to pay the same prices, but £28 is ridiculous. Well I said I wasn’t going to complain, but it looks like I have, then again for £28 I felt aggrieved that I couldn’t take my seat home with me.
I’ve been passed the Macron Stadium on numerous occasions, either on my way to Manchester, or whilst shopping at Horwich Parkway, the retail site that sits next door to the football ground. Every time I’ve walked past the ground I’ve peered through the gates, and to be fair I was looking forward to actually going inside. Knowing that the Retail Park has a Next, we elected to get to the ground early to try and avoid any traffic, but to be fair the journey was easy, and we parked up, after paying £7 for the privilege, about 1pm. Before the game we headed to the Pizza Hut on the retail park, and Peter Kay wouldn’t have been happy as there wasn’t any Garlic Bread, in a Pizza Hut. In all fairness they were busy, and did look understaffed, but the staff were friendly, and shared a bit of banter about the football. With pizza consumed, we headed around to our turnstile. Soon enough we found ourselves in the concourse, which was huge, which is nice to see. Before taking our seats I separated with £6 for two programmes, with those in hand we headed up to our seats, in what must be the coldest football ground in the country.
To say the Macron Stadium is cold, is an understatement, I’m sure I saw a penguin in one corner of the ground! But despite the chill factor, the Macron Stadium is impressive. The Macron Stadium, formerly the Reebok Stadium, was opened in 1997, as Bolton made the move from Burnden Park. The ground holds 28,723, and has a distinctive gabled architecture which gives the ground its striking look, the ground is symmetrical, with both stands on the touchlines being the same, and the stands behind the goals being carbon copies of each other. My Uncle Ed once described the ground as looking like a UFO which had landed in the middle of the countryside, but then again he was probably a little bit bitter, following an expensive taxi journey he once had to take to get to the ground. Unfortunately the ground isn’t in Bolton itself, instead it stands just outside Horwich, and my Birmingham City supporting Uncles decided to follow the Blues to Bolton, and made the mistake of drinking in Bolton City Centre, with the idea of walking to the ground, however after talking to the locals, they learnt that the ground wasn’t in walking distance, not for a 3pm kick off anyway, and they had to hop in a taxi. So let that be a lesson for the future, if you are going to Bolton, head to Horwich. I’ve said this in a number of blogs, but I feel that this ground is far too good for League One, and should be back in the Premier League, out of all the league grounds I’ve been to this season, I would say that the Macron has been my favourite so far.
Bolton Wanderers were formed in 1874, and initially began life as Christ Church Football Club, before adopting their current name in 1877. Wanderers were founder members of the Football League in 1888, and have the honour of being the club that have spent the most time in the top flight without winning the title, with the 2011 to 2012 season being their 73rd, non-consecutive year in the top flight. The club have come close to winning the title on three occasions, as they finished third in the First Division in 1891 to 1892, 1920 to 1921 and 1924 to 1925. However Bolton have won the FA Cup on four occasions, in 1923, 1926, 1929 and 1958, along with the FA Charity Shield and the Football League Trophy. In 1995 the club regained their top-flight status, and qualified for the UEFA Cup twice, reaching the last 32 in 2005 to 2006, and the last 16 in 2007 to 2008. Recently though the club have experience some tough times, with financial crisis crippling the club, Bolton dropped into the Championship May 2012, and in December 2015 the club were handed a winding up order from HMRC due to unpaid taxes, the club who were £172.9 million in debt at the time, experienced a transfer embargo, and narrowly avoided being wound up entirely, as they were said to owe £2.2 million to those lovely people at HMRC. On the 9th of April 2016, the club lost 4-1 away to Derby which confirmed their relegation to League One, for the first time since 1993. This season, the club are looking for an immediate return to the Championship, and to be fair they look like they’ll do so, as they are one of the stronger teams in the league. In their last game Bolton lost 1-0 to Chesterfield, but their home record has been good, with their last home game resulting in a 4-0 win over Gillingham.
Shrewsbury Town aren’t having the best of seasons, but I have full faith in Paul Hurst to turn this around, since I last saw the Town play, at Fleetwood, we have won two, and drawn two in the league, unfortunately our FA Cup run came to an end at the hands of Fleetwood, however this allows us to concentrate on the league.
As I’ve already said, the Macron Stadium is cold, and despite the fact that I had wrapped up warm, I was still feeling the chill, so part way into the first half I headed down to refreshment hut, and bought a coffee for £2, and a share bag of M&Ms for £2.60. On the concourses were televisions showing the game live, and there were a couple of Shrewsbury fans who had elected to stand on the concourse and watch the TV with a beer.
Shrewsbury began the game looking rather lacklustre, and it seemed that our players had had a bit too much turkey on Christmas day. Bolton on the other hand were showing the form which has seen them rip teams to shreds, and in the 24th minute they found their opening goal, as David Wheater thundered a header against the post, from a Jay Spearing corner, before firing home the rebound, as Shrewsbury’s defence seemingly forgot how to communicate.
Wheater picked up his second of the game in the 28th minute, as he found himself in the right place at the right time, to mop up a shot from Gary Madine which had been blocked. The Shrewsbury defence called for offside, but again it was just poor defending.
Half Time: Bolton Wanderers 2-0 Shrewsbury Town (Wheater 24, 28)
At half time we headed into the warmth of the concourse, and watched the half time results on the televisions. I desperately attempted to find out how Chorley were doing at AFC Fylde, however there didn’t seem to be any signal. With the second half looming, we headed back to our seats. Shrewsbury made a change at half time, with Sylvan Ebanks-Blake being replaced by George Waring. Ebanks-Blake had had a rather anonymous first half, but he had battled well against the Bolton defence.
From the kick-off Shrewsbury began to put pressure on Bolton, and honestly, if we had played the way we did in the Second Half, in the First Half, we wouldn’t have been losing. Town were playing well, and it looked like we would force our way back into the match. Bolton were also continuing to attack, but Jayson Leutwiler continued to show why he is Town’s key player, with a number of good stops.
Town made a second change in the 72nd minute, with the ineffective Jim O’Brien being replaced by Shaun Whalley. The introduction of Whalley seemed to kick some life into us, and we began to look even more threatening.
Bolton then made their first change in the 80th minute, with Jay Spearing making way for Derik Osede.
Salop forced a goal in the 83rd minute, as Mat Sadler fired in a shot which thundered off of the underside of the bar, and with Town pressing, the ball made its way to Jack Grimmer, who crossed the ball in, and Junior Brown slammed the ball home to give us a lifeline.
With Salop pressing for an equalizer, the Town fans began to believe, and our support began to get louder, unfortunately this antagonized a Bolton fan, and after some verbals between the two sets of fans, the Bolton lad was escorted out. It’s never nice to see anyone being taken out of a ground, but something had to be done, it was also a shame to see a Bolton fan acting that way, as the Bolton fans I had spoken to were all nice people, but with every football club, there’s always one that lets the rest down.
Town should have had a penalty late on in the game, as the ball was turned into the box by Louis Dodds, and the ball clearly hit a Bolton hand, and the linesman waved his flag to indicate a penalty, however to the amazement of everyone in the ground, the referee waved play on, and I’m sure if some Bolton fans are being honest they’ll admit they breathed a sigh of relief when the referee overruled his assistant.
Bolton were able to see the game out, and the final whistle felt like a punch in the stomach, as Town looked likely to get an equalizer, however the Bolton defence held firm, and it wasn’t to be.
Final Score: Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Shrewsbury Town (Wheater 24, 28 – Brown 83)
Following the final whistle we made a quick getaway to the car, and watched in bemusement as a red Mazda attempted to force its way against traffic onto the car-park. However this was interrupted as my mum stumbled past me, turning round we noticed that my dad had misjudged the kerb, and had fallen flat onto his face, luckily on the grass, he’s getting on a bit, bless him. Once my dad had gotten up, and hobbled to the car, we set off back for Chorley.
A win for Bolton sees them remain 3rd in the league, only two points off of league leaders Scunthorpe. Bolton do look like they’ll make a quick return to the Championship, and I honestly do hope they do so, as their fans have stuck with them following their relegations.
Defeat for Town, sees us stay in 21st, on level points with Chesterfield who sit in 22nd, and Bury who sit in 20th. Chesterfield have a worse goal difference than ourselves, with -15 to our -13, however Bury are on the same goal difference as ourselves, and with the right additions in January, I think safety could be on the cards.
The Macron Stadium is definitely one to visit, and I think anyone interested in doing so would be best of doing so this season, as tickets will probably be easy to get hold of, as there were a number of empty seats. However, I have met a number of people from Bolton, and they do seem pretty loyal to their club, so maybe when Bolton return to the Championship, and hopefully the Premier League, the crowds will also return.
Cost: £10.60 (However this is only what I spent at the ground, it would be £28 higher if I had paid for my ticket.)
Movember Total: £9.50 (£1.50 from today’s game)
Hat-tricks seen so far: 0