Bolton 2-1 Swansea: Daily Mirror match report
Published 21:06 29/01/12 By Graham Chase
Bolton boss Owen Coyle will want Darren Pratley to apologise all the way to Wembley.
Pratley, 26, bagged his first goal since quitting Swansea for the Reebok Stadium under a cloud in the summer and raised a hand to say ‘sorry’ to his former fans.
The ex-Arsenal and Fulham youth player traded barbs with Swans chairman Huw Jenkins before leaving on a free transfer as Brendan Rodgers’ men celebrated promotion to the Premier League.
His parting shot for the Swans was a strike from his own half to help earn them a spot in the play-off final.
Pratley’s first real taste of the top-flight has been far from ideal, with the midfielder only making eight League starts under Coyle.
But even though he got his Trotters career up and running with a neat header to haul Bolton level, he refused to rub it in against his old club. He said: “I was there for five years and had a good time and I wish the club well because I’ve got nothing against the club.
“I love the club and that’s why I just sort of apologised. I didn’t know whether I’d be playing so I hadn’t thought about it but I knew I would never celebrate against Swansea if I scored.
“I was getting stick and some people were saying I only left for the money but I was never going to celebrate. In the games I’ve started for Bolton, in half of them we’ve had a man sent off and played with 10 men.
“Now we’ve changed the formation to three in midfield, that will suit me a little bit better but I’ll carry on working hard and when the manager wants me I’ll be as ready as I can be.”
Bolton fans still look back and shake their heads at their calamitous 5-0 slamming by Stoke in last season’s FA Cup semi-final.
But they have firmly set their sights on another trip to Wembley after battling back against the Swans. Rodgers still has survival on his mind – despite being five points above Bolton – and made 10 changes but saw his slick second string grab the lead.
Luke Moore out-muscled David Wheater to clip a delicate shot past Adam Bogdan two minutes before the break. But Pratley got his head on the end of a bending Martin Petrov free-kick in stoppage time. And 10 minutes later, Swansea’s back-up keeper Gerhard Tremmel fumbled Petrov’s cross and Chris Eagles fired home to put Bolton in the fifth round.
Bolton are still in the hunt for Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha and Coyle, who will snub any interest in Kevin Davies, has no problem with chucking kids into a relegation battle.
He said: “I can understand why managers think short-term. It’s self-preservation, look after your job and all that. But I have confidence and belief in what we’re doing.
“We’re trying to plan for years to come. When I came in we were second bottom of the league and I needed to address that.
“But the squad is two years older and it was an old squad at the time. So I had to get some youth in to marry it with the experienced players we have.”
After snapping up Gylfi Sigurdsson and Josh McEachran on loan at the start of the month, Rodgers is not expecting any more new Swansea arrivals before tomorrow night’s deadline.
Rodgers insists the Welsh outfit are still looking over their shoulders, despite sitting eight points above the drop zone.
But he claims the 3-2 home win over Arsenal means his side have no reason to be scared of Chelsea tomorrow night.
He said: “There is certainly no complacency in our group. I don’t think we are a group that is good enough yet to take our feet off the pedal.
“Over the course of the season, the performances of the players has shown they are growing all through the season.
“Of course, as soon as you get that first victory against a so-called big club that gives you that motivation and belief that you can do it.
“Ultimately, though, at home no matter who the opponent is we have a great belief we can get a good result.”
“We know it will be tough game, but it will also be a tough game for Chelsea.”