Pained expressions at Bolton
Cumbria may have played host to the World Gurning Championships on Saturday - but it is tough to imagine any of the lovingly-crafted pained expressions matching those on show at The Reebok.
Bolton fans wore masks of agony for almost the entire duration of a joyless match where even the relief of Matt Taylor's last-minute penalty and a first home point this season did not spare manager Gary Megson from a chorus of jeering at the final whistle.
And Stoke boss Tony Pulis made an entry of his own when defender Danny Collins temporarily took leave of his senses to hack down Sam Ricketts and squander a victory that was set up by Dave Kitson's splendid goal.
Pulis had recovered his poise slightly and was gentleman enough to check if there were any females present before giving vent to his feelings at his post-match inquest.
He kept it clean with a simple: "Am I disappointed or what?" And he was. And he should have been because Stoke were guilty of wasting an opportunity to add further substance to a promising start to the Premier League campaign.
Bolton manager Gary Megson
Pulis at least had the satisfaction of witnessing Stoke exert a measure of control over a Bolton side of limited ambition and ability - much to the obvious chagrin of those who gather at The Reebok on a regular basis.
Stoke show signs of progression from the team that survived in comfort last season, underpinned by a superb home record and the deafening support inside The Britannia Stadium.
Pulis has built on his squad, adding Robert Huth to his defence and crucially fending off interest in Ryan Shawcross. It is a sign of movement in the right direction when Stoke can name a starting line-up with James Beattie and the highly-gifted Tuncay on the bench.
Stoke may not threaten the top end of the Premier League, but Pulis has done a job to be admired and his demeanour even after a draw that must have felt like a defeat oozed that of a man positive about his work and his team and who is appreciated by his supporters.
No such luxury for his opposite number. Megson, while positive about his work and his team, receives little appreciation from many Bolton fans. He has not won them over - and a measure of injustice lies in the fact that plenty were unconvinced by him even before he had taken charge of a game.
Bolton's fans are not enamoured by a primitive playing style, but it appears expectations have been raised to unattainable levels by Sam Allardyce guiding the club into Europe. This was the exception not a rule.
Megson has worked to consolidate Bolton's position in the Premier League, but there was an inescapable air of permanent dissatisfaction around The Reebok - although even the most patient would have been tested by a first 45 minutes that flouted its label as entertainment.
The jeering broke out at regular intervals during that first half and built to a crescendo as Mark Clattenburg sounded the whistle for the interval. And even the late equaliser failed to prevent more criticism pouring down on Bolton in general, and Megson in particular.
Dave Kitson scores for Stoke against Bolton
At one point in a dire first half, after a short burst of hostility from Bolton's fans, goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen appeared to turn to the crowd and motion for more support. It is impossible to imagine Thomas Sorensen having to do the same at The Britannia - and the respective home records emphasises the importance of such details.
Bolton's players will find it tough to flourish in such surroundings - in sharp contrast to Stoke at their Britannia fortress - and you get the impression that if Megson brought the Champions League trophy to The Reebok some fans would shrug and immediately ask him what he was going to do about retaining it.
Do not get me wrong here - Bolton's fans had every right to give vent to their disappointment but it is a tough and unforgiving environment for players and manager.
Bolton escaped with a point their performance barely deserved, but it will take a lot more than this to put smiles on the faces of The Reebok regulars and remove the scowls that greeted the conclusion of a game that will swiftly disappear from the memory.
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