PRATLEY POUNCES TO TAME LIONS
THERE was a time, not too long ago, when Darren Pratley was one of the most sought-after players outside the Premier League.
And after his second-half strike earned Bolton all three points against Millwall, manager Neil Lennon believes the midfielder is recapturing the form which saw him so highly-rated during his days with Swansea.
The oft-maligned Pratley is the latest proof that almost everything Lennon touches since arriving at the Macron Stadium turns to gold – Bolton have lost only twice in the Northern Irishman’s 11 games in charge.
However, the 29-year-old was far from the only reason the Trotters recorded just a second victory at The Den, old or new, in more than 80 years.
Lee Chung-yong caused the Lions defence fits every time he touched the ball and Andy Lonergan produced a spectacular late save to deny Martyn Woolford.
But it was Pratley who was singled out for special praise by his manager.
“Pratley was outstanding in the things he does and it was a fantastic finish,” said Lennon.
“I have always thought he was a good player and we’re seeing the Darren Pratley of maybe four or five years ago.
“He has shown great character. He was the whipping boy and people turn on you very quickly but he has come through that. He has become a very important cog in the team.
“It is a massive win in the context of our season. The style of football we played was very pleasing.
“What pleased me more than anything were the chances we created. The stuff we are trying to implement in training is there for all to see.”
In a scrappy opening to the game, Lee consistently provided a touch of quality – first flashing a ball across the face of goal before despatching a pinpoint cross which was met by Tim Ream but superbly parried by David Forde.
It was the home side who created the best chance of the first period though as Lee Gregory latched on to a long ball but saw his angled drive drift wide of Lonergan’s goal.
After the break, referee Stuart Attwell took centre stage as he denied Millwall what appeared to be a clear penalty.
Another raking long ball released Gregory who poked the ball beyond the onrushing Lon- ergan before being brought down by the stopper but Attwell waved play on, leaving Lions boss Ian Holloway apoplectic on the sidelines.
Rob Hall hit the post for the visitors before Bolton truly made Millwall pay on 68 minutes – Lee’s perfectly-weighted pass finding Pratley who shrugged off Danny Shittu to crash an unstoppable shot in off the underside of the bar.
Millwall huffed and puffed without the necessary quality to grab an equaliser although Lonergan did race off his line to deny Woolford in the dying seconds and secure a fourth cleansheet in a row.
And although Holloway was upset by his team’s performance as a whole, he bemoaned the penalty decision which could well have changed the course of the game.
“The biggest contentious issue of the whole game was very upsetting and very annoying,” he said.“If that’s not a foul then Gregory should have been booked for diving. It was clear to Bolton’s bench, to be fair, they knew it should have been a penalty and down to ten men, and that would have changed the complexion of the game.
“Do me a favour, book my man for diving or send their keeper off. Don’t just play on! But we have to be stand up and be counted – me and the team – and organise ourselves to be able to play in front of our own crowd.”
HERO: Darren Pratley scores the only goal