Belfast Telegraph

Owen Coyle ready for Bolton's 'biggest match of the season'

By Eleanor Crooks

Owen Coyle is ready to make major changes to his Bolton Wanderers side after watching them contribute to their own downfall again against Newcastle on Boxing Day.

On a high after winning last week's crunch game with Blackburn and facing a team on a run of only two points from six games, Coyle's struggling team looked to have a great opportunity. But, instead, two careless pieces of play in defence in as many minutes in the second half condemned them to a 2-0 loss at the Reebok Stadium, leaving Coyle exasperated.

An injury crisis has not helped Bolton's cause but, with Sam Ricketts and Sean Davis almost back to fitness and others set to follow, as well as several young players waiting in the wings, Coyle could shuffle his pack for Saturday's match with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Scot said: "There's one or two I've tried to play through, we've chopped and changed, tried to give it a bit of freshness. But there comes a point when, if we're getting one or two back from injury, or if some of the kids are ready, then so be it, because I'm not going to stand and watch the same mistakes costing us every week."

Coyle confirmed last week that talks had begun with Chelsea over the possible transfer of defender Gary Cahill, which would provide funds for much-needed reinforcements. "If Gary's situation comes to fruition and we can juggle one or two balls, then so be it, but that's for January," added Coyle.

The chief frustration for the manager on Boxing Day was the manner of the defeat, with Chris Eagles and Paul Robinson being heavily punished for careless play leading to goals from Hatem Ben Arfa and Demba Ba in the 69th and 71st minutes.

Saturday's meeting with fellow strugglers Wolves at the Reebok Stadium now has even greater significance, and Coyle wants his players to seize the moment. He said: "It's frustrating because we've let a great opportunity pass us by in terms of getting back-to-back wins.

"That's being very respectful of the quality Newcastle have but we're at home, we had a terrific record here last year and we've let ourselves down again.

"A win would have put us in among five or six teams and it would have been very interesting. Going into the Wolves game on Saturday, that's our biggest game of the season absolutely and we have to make sure that we're ready.

"In spells there was a lot to be pleased about but it's got to be for the entirety of the match. The two goals are self-inflicted and that's hard to take.

"I can always accept if a team is better because they've got world-class players and everything else, but when you shoot yourselves in the foot as we did, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

"The era I played in, people stood up to be counted, and we've not done it well enough. You do one of two things in life, you either feel sorry for yourself or you stand up and say, 'I'm the guy who can change it. I'll work hard, I'll do my bit', and that's what we need to do.

"It's horrible, it's not a nice feeling, particularly as a manager. But we do know we can change it, and quickly, but to do that we need everyone to give a big performance against Wolves."

For Newcastle's manager, Alan Pardew, there was relief at seeing his side's poor run come to an end. Ben Arfa's first goal for more than a year and Ba's 14th of the season stole the headlines but Pardew singled out the winger Gabriel Obertan, who set up the second, for praise.

The 22-year-old has had mixed reviews since joining from Manchester United in the summer, and Pardew said: "He's a young player. He's a player the crowd know can lift people off their seats. "Sometimes you want it too much. He has to play for the team and he did. He nearly scored with a good bit of individual flair and then created the winning goal so I'm pleased for him."

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