Another local derby and yet another demolishing of a small club. These wins are almost becoming boring. Almost. The FA Cup 3rd round tie was a potential banana skin for the titans of Bolton Wanderers. Sometimes you just can't predict how these small teams with nothing to lose will play in the Cup against a much bigger side, but thankfully we prevailed with ease.
It was a stupendous display of slick, fluid attacking football, as Bolton dominated the game from beginning to end. If it wasn't for the former Wanderer, Ali Al Habsi, the score would have been more embarrassing for Wigan Athletic than their putrid manager and backwards owner.
So, just how did those amazing men in white do? Well, let me tell you.
Adam Bogdan - 8
Bogdan has had to twiddle his thumbs on the bench for the past few weeks, due to the fantastic form of Andy Lonergan, but after making his return to the first team he proved why Bolton should be trying everything in their power to sign him up to a new contract. He safe and assured in his return to goal, catching every cross that attempted to sail over his head and dominating his penalty area. He also displayed that he hasn't lost any of his instinct, as he somehow managed to palm away Adam Foreshaw's powerful header, when a goal seemed a certainty. Personally, I hope Bogdan keeps his place.
Josh Vela - 8
It would appear that Josh Vela will be our right back until the end of time now, because that was another great performance from the youngster. I don't think I really need to explain how good he is going forward again, but I do went to mention how much he's improved the defensive side of his game. He's fully adapted to playing at right back now and has positioning nailed to a tee and his dogged, determined tackling cut out plenty of attacks against Wigan. It's actually remarkable that Wigan didn't attack the left flank more, because they got very little past Vela.
David Wheater - 8
Wheater has found chances lacking due to the fine partnership of Mill and Dervite, but he proved he can adequately step in to the defence with little worry, as he replaced the injured Mills in the starting line up. It was a very solid display from the big defender: he dominated in the air to head away everything that came into the box, he made some leg crunching tackles to win the ball back and get moves going, and he made some crucial interceptions in the box. However, he did miss a sitter of a header.
Dorian Dervite - 7
With the absence of Mills, Dervite stepped into the leadership role and led the back line valiantly, constantly barking instructions and encouragement to those around him. It was yet another great performance from him too, dealing with everything that came his way, especially two pivotal challenges early in the second half, when Wigan were trying to get on top of the proceedings.
Tim Ream - 6
It was a weird game from Ream, as he didn't really seem at his best. When Wigan came to life a bit towards the end of the first half/beginning of the second and started pressing us a bit more, it seemed to knock Ream aback a bit. He wasn't really that effective going forward and got beaten a few times down the left, it's just a good thing that Wigan team doesn't have much intelligence and rarely attacked Ream's side, other wise he may have been exposed on a few more occasions.
Liam Trotter - 7
After his Huddersfield horror show, Trotter displayed why he was brought to the club, with a very good performance on Saturday. His passing was accurate and crisp, as he seemed to be involved in every attack we did, including a delightful through ball to slip Clough through for his winner. His surging runs into the box made our midfield even more dangerous and he was solid going back the other way too.
Neil Danns - 7
With Neil Danns donning the captains armband for the first time, due to the absence of Matt Mills, he's completed his transformation from bit-part attacking player, to the fulcrum of our midfield. He played the game like a true leader too, helping his team mates up when they had fallen, making sure to congratulate Clough again upon his substitution, and he was back to his best, going past players with skill and making sure players didn't go past him, with some thunderous challenges.
Darren Pratley - 7
It was another steady display from Pratley, not quite reaching the heights of some of his recent performances, but nice and steady all the same. He passed the ball well and was an important cog of the new three man midfield, running all other the pitch to win the ball back and use it in imaginative ways. For instance, attempting a scorpion kick from twenty yards, completely missing, and landing on his face. Yes, that was a really imaginative use of the ball.
Zach Clough - 9
Against Blackburn, Nell Lennon experimented with a 4312 formation and, for various different reasons, it didn't really work, as Blackburn dominated us in those early stages we had in that formation. Despite it not working on that day I was eagerly anticipating the game where we'd see the rather alien (to Bolton fans) set up, mainly due to how interesting it is to watch. It made a return against Wigan and worked like an absolute charm, largely due to Zach Clough. Clough operated in the space between the strikers and the midfield, and due to his pace he was able to make the formation work. Against Blackburn Gudjohnsen played in the attacking midfield role, and due to his lack of pace he often found himself playing too deep and unable to influence the game. But that was no such problem for the academy graduate. Clough's searing pace allowed us an outlet to drive forward and exploit the space left by the hapless Wigan midfield. Due to the way the formation works he always had three options: pass left, pass right, shoot. Now in the early stages I thought he was a little hesitant in making those decisions, but once he grew into the game he was outstanding. What's most pleasing is that he often chose to shoot, showing he is certainly not lacking in any confidence. He ran the show in the second half with his runs from deep, quick skill and good passing, and deservedly got the winner with a composed lifted finish over Ali Al-Habsi. What's most striking about Clough was just how at home he was in the first team, it was difficult to tell if it was even his debut. That's testament to the team spirit and togetherness Lennon has instilled in the club since his arrival.
Emile Heskey - 6
In his first start for the club, Heskey applied himself well and lasted an hour of the game. He showed some really nice touches and link up play, especially with Liam Feeney, but every time an opportunity came his way he seemed to slide on top of the ball.
Liam Feeney - 6
Playing upfront for the second time, Feeney faired a lot better there than he did against Blackburn, and he looked really dangerous at points. His runs in behind the Wigan defence led to a few opportunities but he seemed to hesitate quite a bit, and was then quickly shut out. The best past of Feeney's game was his touch, he brought the ball down extremely well on several occasions, one of which led to the winning goal. He ran his
Craig Davies - 5
With the recent departures of Max Clayton and Chung-Yong Lee from the squad, seeing Craig Davies make his return from injury was a welcome sight. He battled hard in his thirty minute stint, but found very little of the ball.
Eidur Gudjohnsen - N/A
Came on in order for Clough to receive the standing ovation he deserved, but didn't see any of the ball.