It was a dull game. The kind of game that was likely to be separated by a moment of defensive madness or some sheer attacking brilliance.
Step forward Diego Fabbrini. In control of the ball down the left-hand side, he produced a flip-flap that momentarily stunned the covering Dean Moxey. Fabbrini just managed to poke the ball across with his right-foot on the touchline where Clayton Donaldson was already on the move, similarly knocking the ball on the outside of his right-boot beyond Rob Holding and Bolton back-up keeper Paul Rachubka.
In a first-half that provided unnecessary despair as balls were booted out of play, short passes were picked off with relative ease and running at the opposition full-backs proved to be a difficult task for much of the game. Bolton controlled possession but lacked creative flair as the tiny Zach Clough tried to lead the line against the wiley pairing of Michael Morrison and Paul Robinson.
Fabbrini was the sole figure on the field that always looked capable of creating a chance, producing something brilliant. He was the one Blues player that always looked in control of the ball during his hour on the field.
Then it changed. Fabbrini was replaced, Toral stepped onto the pitch. In the final moments of the game, he receives the ball in his favoured central position, immediately turning towards the opposition defenders as his immaculate control made a strong pass from the returning David Cotterill seem quite standard. Then came a wonderful little dinked ball over the top of former Blue Neil Danns. A little more composure from Clayton Donaldson and the game would have been sealed there and then.
In an incredibly dull game, we saw two moments of sheer genius, two moments that got the supporters off their feet. Two moments out of the ordinary. Two moments of class.
Over the years, Blues have had some very good players, players who are capable of putting themselves about, who are full of energy and whose work ethics endear them to the hearts of the St.Andrews crowd more than some.
In my lifetime, I have witnessed the Australian wing wizard Stan Lazaridis. There has been Chris Burke who thrived in that year under Chris Hughton. Nathan Redmond was a joy to watch. David Cotterill can produce moments of brilliance along with his honest wing play. Other recent fans favourites include the goalkeepers, Stephen Carr, Jeff Kenna, Kenny Cunningham, Damien Johnson, Robbie Savage, Stephen Clemence amongst others. Leaders, stalwarts. Players always up for the battle who always gave 100%.
Only twice have I witnessed a footballer in a Blues shirt that could effectively get away with playing the game at his own tempo, of dropping off into any position on the field to collect possession and create chances from nothing. The type of player who never looks out of control in possession and plays the game immediately on the half turn. The type of player that the opposition simply love to foul because they know being turned is too dangerous to contemplate. The type of player who you simply watch in awe.
Christophe Dugarry. Ravel Morrison.
Dugarry is without doubt the most talented player I have seen at St.Andrews and many of my generation would be inclined to agree. His performances during the second half of the 2002-03 campaign were simply magnificent.
Ravel Morrison was a brilliant footballer. The type of footballer that everybody seems to want to discipline to prolong his career at the top level. Morrison proved that when given freedom on the field to get on the ball in the middle of the park and create chances he could run games. His link-up play with Nathan Redmond and Shane Ferguson made for wonderful viewing during the second half of Lee Clark’s first full season with the club.
They have played with some fine footballers, but never have I seen two of their ilk in the same team. We have players capable of scoring goals, natural wingers with pace and trickery but never two number 10’s with such composure, such calmness in possession.
There are obviously reasons they are at St.Andrews. If Diego Fabbrini was that good he would have won more than one cap for Italy. He would probably have moved for big money from Udinese and be playing at the top of the Italian game. His lightweight nature and tendency to go down at the first moment of contact will make him a continually frustrating figure while his lack of pace will hinder him if he steps up a level.
For Jon Toral, his major issue has come in the form of inexperience and injury. Two bad injuries in his teenage years left him in a bad state and he only played his first full season with Brentford last year. He has since stepped up and become a rather consistent figure of creativity for Blues this year showing just why Arsene Wenger gave him a new contract despite having never figured for the Gunners.
They are two players that have been given the freedom of the pitch under Gary Rowett, however. Discipline has been a slow process and one that they are learning but the former Burton boss is well aware that disciplining such creative talent too much will only help in killing their games. Their freedom is a necessary in a Blues side built to be compact, hard-working and difficult to break down.
Make the most of it Blues fans – these two are a joy to watch.