Despite Bolton Wanderers suffering yet another desperately disappointing home defeat, this time to the hands of ten-man Bournemouth, the performance from the team on a whole was really encouraging, and there were a couple of very good personal performances too.
From the stands to the dug-out, positivity was back at The Macron, with players receiving rounds of applause for their efforts rather than jeers for their mistakes. This new found encouragement really reflected in the team ethic too, with every single Bolton player putting in tremendous amounts effort and constantly chasing down every loose ball.
We dominated the game for large portions, obviously the red card helped in that regard, but Bolton really took the game to Bournemouth, a team much better than them. Wanderers applied massive amounts of pressure to the Bournemouth back line, hardly allowing the Cherries time to break out of their own box for a lot of the 90 minutes, and crafted a varied amount of good opportunities: through patient build up play and intelligent passing, individual skill, and good crossing into the box.
Unfortunately, a real lack of ruthlessness in the penalty area and some brilliant play from Bournemouth's Callum Wilson cost us the game.
Andy Lonergan - 6
Made a couple of stunning saves in the first half, but probably could have done better on both goals, especially the first.
Chris Herd - 7
Another very good performance from the Aston Villa loanee, whilst he may be quite rash and naïve in his tackling, he is excellent going forward. I lost count of the amount of times he gave a player the slip with a quick shuffle on the ball. He also has the ability to swing a dangerous cross into the box. My complaint is, he didn't get forward enough when there was clear space to exploit, on many occasions the likes of Danns and Spearing were screaming at him to attack that empty right side and he was often slow to react.
Matt Mills - 5
After an apparent horror show midweek against Fulham, Mills was steady against Bournemouth. He didn't win a single tackle, but he did make a couple of important interceptions and defensive headers. He was solid yet nothing near spectacular. Also, the long balls NEED to stop, he surrendered possession so many times by aimlessly smashing the ball forward.
Dorian Dervite - 7
Although Dervite was occasionally hesitant in whether to press or sit back and he might be responsible for losing Wilson for the second goal, if so then bunk the rating down to a six, he was very good once again. For the majority of the game he easily bullied the Bournemouth strikers off the ball, he won 100% of his ariel duels and in the first half blocked a certain goal off the line. I also love Dervite's attitude, every time we concede a goal, when every other player is moping around feeling sorry for themselves, Dervite is always the one going to pick the ball out of the net and getting us going again. A great mentality to have.
Tim Ream - 7
I can't describe what a relief it is to have a left back who can actually play football on the pitch. Just having Ream on instead of Moxey makes the defence look immediately more balanced, and his cool composure on the ball must also be calming for the rest of the defence, as they don't have to worry about Moxey stupidly giving it away. With Ream's willingness to go forward and intricate passing, Bolton are much more of a threat going forward, as there is always another option out wide. He may have been left for dust for Bournemouth's opener, but that aside, he was mostly very solid at the back too.
Neil Danns - 4
There was no shortage of effort from Danns, but he's completely ineffective out wide as he offers no width and creates very little from those areas. Should have been substituted for Feeney much early than when he was eventually taken off for Clayton.
Jay Spearing - 8
That was easily Jay Spearing's best game for Bolton since he signed here permanently. He was finally fulfilling his role as a defensive midfielder by being first to every loose ball which allowed Bolton to keep Bournemouth pinned in their own half for a lot of the game. His passing was also greatly improved, not only was he managing to pass it sideways successfully, but he was also hitting good 40 plus yard passes to onrushing attackers, which helped Wanderers get in behind the Bournemouth back line. He looked confident on the ball; instead of hiding from it which he usually does, he was actively seeking it out and carrying it forward before offloading it again. With a goal to boot, it was a good day for Spearing, but he needs to continue playing like this and not slump back to the dreadful form he's been in for the last 18 months.
Mark Davies - 5
I get the feeling that Davies is a player you only notice when he's not in the team. In the first half he did very little, aside from just short passes in the middle of the park that kept the ball moving. But when he had to come off, after suffering yet another injury, his presence was missed because, try as he might, Pratley just hasn't got the same ability going forward as Davies.
Chung-yong Lee - 6
Whilst Lee saw a lot of the ball and displayed a lot of nice skill, constantly beating players as he drove inside with the ball, he had very little end product and created next to nothing. His work tracking back was admirable however, and he denied Bournemouth some straight shots on goal with his hard work.
Craig Davies - 6
Bless him, he works so, so hard. Davies is a real trier and probably puts more effort in on the pitch than anybody else, he again bullied defenders with his strength on the ball but he was also good with the ball on the ground on Saturday, beating players with quick feet to set up chances. Alas, he was wasteful with the chances he got, hitting all three of his shots straight at the goalkeeper and often being ponderous in the box with the ball at his feet.
Jermaine Beckford - 6
I think Beckford ran more against Bournemouth than he has for the rest of his Bolton career combined. It was obscene. Beckford ran for every seemingly dead ball, keeping many attacks alive and also linked extremely well with every player around him. For a striker who's usually positioned on the shoulder of the centre back, I was surprised to see how well he could come deep and hold up the ball. Just like Davies though, he was very wasteful with the chances he got and he failed to anticipate several dangerous crosses into the box, epitomising the lack of clinical nature in the Bolton strike force.
Darren Pratley - 6
Coming on to replace Mark Davies at halftime, Pratley was never going to be able to replicate Davies' drive with the ball, but he kept the flow of the game moving and made several intelligent runs to create space for other attackers.
Joe Mason - 3
I don't recall Mason getting a single touch of the ball.
Max Clayton - 5
Freedman's last permanent signing for Bolton, Max Clayton, made his first team debut coming on in the last ten minutes. He showed promise in the short amount of time he had, having a few nice touches and one good cross that should have been capitalised one. There's more to come from him.