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8th August

Bolton Wanderers    0          Jay Spearing sent off 86

Derby County 0

An away point in Paul Clement’s first league game in charge was overshadowed by injuries to Craig Bryson & Will Hughes – both potentially serious knee injuries, particularly for Hughes who had to be stretchered off on the half hour.

After a very busy summer; a new head coach and coaches – seven new players and a promising pre-season there was always going to be interest in Paul Clement’s first team selection – five of the team that started that awful last game against Reading started this game – Richard Keogh, Stephen Warnock, Will Hughes, Tom Ince & Johnny Russell.

In for debuts came new signings Scott Carson and new captain Chris Baird while Jason Shackell started his second stint as a Ram.

Terrific to see George Thorne and Chris Martin back after injury and also interesting to see Craig Bryson straight into the team after an injury hit pre-season being preferred to Jeff Hendrick as part of the midfield diamond though he got little chance to impress with his early injury.

Getting used to a new manager is always an interesting process and pre-match a couple of things caught my attention.

The preferring of Johnny Russell to new signing Andreas Wiemann was one. It became apparent through pre-season that these two players were likely to be competing for a place and both had a good pre-season but to see Johnny given the nod was an interesting one.

The selection of Stephen Warnock over Craig Forsyth at left back in an experienced defence was another selection of note after the former Leeds man had struggled to make an impact at the end of last season.

Although Bolton hit the woodwork three times late on, the defence as a whole looked better with Jason Shackell at its heart, his excellent game sense and positioning, his powerful aerial presence and his leadership at the back will be such a boost for us this season.

The substitution that saw Ryan Shotton take over at right back as Chris Baird moved into midfield weakened us at the back and Shotton looked vulnerable at times as well as lacking in confidence going forward.

We held the diamond formation throughout but with a middle two of Baird and Hendrick rather than Bryson and Hughes we lacked creativity and the full backs did not do a great job of providing width in support of our attack.

Chris Martin was somewhat isolated because of this and so was Johnny Russell despite his huge work rate (as ever)

The home team started in energetic fashion and won the first corner of the game after a slip from Warnock but the Rams eased into the game from the ten minute mark and had a good five to ten minute period showing some good understanding and fluidity in moving the ball around and forward.

Craig Bryson’s injury occurred first after 20 minutes Jeff Hendrick replacing him.

Hendrick created a great chance for the Rams just before the half hour spinning the ball into the area for Johnny Russell who hit the bar with his rising shot.

The very serious looking injury to Will Hughes just after the half hour extinguished the encouraging signs from the new look Rams; Hughes went down in a heap and needed assistance immediately being carried off on a stretcher.

He did appear on the bench towards the end of the game but the severity of the injury is yet to be confirmed – we can only hope for the best as far as that is concerned.

The injuries to our midfield seemed to (understandably) take the momentum out of our play and the first half dwindled to a close, though the Trotter’s Gary Madine still had time to catch both Jason Shackell and Stephen Warnock with a flying elbow before half time.

The second half started in a disjointed and scrappy manner as the Rams struggled to put moves together. Bolton were always snapping at the Rams players and we were predictable when looking to probe their defence.

When we could create we looked good, George Thorne, Tom Ince and Chris Baird combining well to create a chance that went via Johnny Russell to Chris Martin who couldn’t keep his shot down.

Just as Bolton looked to be tiring and expectation was rising for a Rams winner the home team found a new impetus and hit the Rams woodwork three times through Heskey and Madine.

Referee Andy Madley did not have a great game and allowed Bolton’s physical approach to cross the line at times.

His best decision of the day though was to book Jay Spearing for a dive when the home team were looking for a penalty with just four minutes to go.

The midfielder’s second booking of the day saw him sent off and took the steam out of the home team’s charge.

In the dying embers of the game the Rams had a chance to win it, Ince breaking away but unable to fashion a shot and the ball not falling for either Martin or Hendrick in support.

Paul Clement sounded disappointed after the game but an away point is never to be scorned especially after the injury setbacks we experienced. Jason Shackell looked good, Richard Keogh benefited from having him alongside and Scott Carson was solid in goal.

The season is underway and we have a point on the board – next up Pompey.