I've missed football quite a lot. So I decided to come back home for the weekend, partly to see my beloved Bolton Wanderers for the first time in what feels like an eternity, as they took on Leeds United.
It was a very mixed game, I felt we played quite well in the opening 45 minutes, moving the ball around nicely and creating some decent chances. We fully deserved our half time lead.
The second half, however, is a different story. After losing Mark Davies to injury, we couldn't keep hold of the ball at all which led to Leeds dominating the proceedings. The defence was holding firm and looked fairly comfortable, that was until Prince slipped, allowing Antenucci to skip through on goal, and then the Frenchman caught up with Antenucci, who then went done from the slightest of touches imaginable. It wasn't a penalty, but it was given, and Prince was sent off too.
The Whites were down to ten men but managed to hold on for the point. So at least I didn't come all the way back here for a loss!
Here's how the players did:
Ben Amos - 8
It was another fantastic and assured performance from the goalkeeper. He was comfortable in the air, catching the majority of Leeds' balls into the box, and made a couple of sublime saves to keep us in the game. The first of which came in the first half when he had to show great reactions to save a stinging shot at point blank range, and was up quickly afterwards to catch Wheater's defensive header. The second, the best of the two, was a sublime save which tipped a rasping shot from distance, destined for the goal, on to the post. Can't be blamed for not saving the penalty.
Derik Osede - 4
I'm really not a fan of any centre back playing at right back, and Derik is no exception. Whoever Leeds had playing out on the left, be it the very good Stuart Dallas or Lewis Cook, they were constantly getting the better or Derik - not surprising when it isn't his natural position. He dealt reasonably well when the ball was in the box in terms of clearing and cutting out crosses, but his distribution was poor and he didn't offer a lot going forward. His worst sin, however, was in the lead up to the penalty incident when he hesitated and stood off a Leeds player when the ball was there to be early won. That led to the counter attack in which the penalty was won.
Prince Désir Gouano - 6
It was all looking good for Prince on his return to the first team. He was being his usual impeccable self, using his pace and tenacity to deal with any danger that came his way. All was good and fine until twenty minutes before the end. He slipped on the half way line, allowing Mirco Antenucci to race through on goal. Just as the Italian was about to pull the trigger, Prince used that electric pace of his to get back and stop him. Unfortunately, he was judged to have stopped him illegally by the absolute *expletives far too vile to be written down* of a referee, so he gave away a penalty and was sent off for his troubles. It looked like a solid decision at the time, but upon seeing replays it's clear that the penalty was an absolutely ridiculous call from the red, as he hardly touched, if at all, Antenucci who either lost his footing or dived. It was Prince's eagerness to atone for his mistake that led to the penalty, which was foolish but he'll hopefully learn not to be so rash with experience, but it's hard to criticise him too much when it wasn't a penalty.
David Wheater - 7
I'm a big fan of Wheater and I feel that, as long as he's played with a defender with a bit of pace about him, he can be a really solid centre back. He proved it again against Leeds. He was dominate in the air against a striker who was even taller than him in Chris Wood, and was predominantly good in the tackle too. He also made one excellent block on the line, even if the whistle had already blown for a foul. The only bad part of his game was when he was left one-on-one with Antenucci. He just couldn't deal with the strikers pace and unpredictability and was easily beaten on both occasions. That aside, a good perfjoamcne from the big man.
Jose Manuel Casado - 8
Saturday was the first time I'd seen Spanish left back Jose Manuel Casado play, and I must say, I was very impressed. He was comfortably my man of the match, as nothing got past him down that left side despite coming up against very tricky opponents. He was constantly nipping in in front of the man and winning back the ball, showing his reading of the game is top notch. He was also very composed on the ball, never panicking at the back and always looking to pass the ball our rather than hoof it clear. Probably my favourite aspect to Casado, his lovely beard aside, was the fire he had. On a few occasions he was having a proper go at opposing players or officials, and I love that personally.
Josh Vela - 7
Finally starting a game again in god knows how long, Josh Vela proved exactly why Wanderers fans have been clambering to see him back on the pitch. Playing as the defensive midfielder at the base of the diamond he made our midfield look ten times better, on and off the ball, than it has been in recent weeks. Whilst off the ball he was constantly rushing and harrying the opposition and winning it back. When he got on the ball he was assured in his passing, always looking for the little gives and goes to get the team further up the pitch. The question now is, why the fuck hasn't he been playing every game?
Neil Danns - 5.5
I can very much see why a lot of fans really don't like Danns being on the team sheet, he does work hard, but he just brings very little else to the side. I thought he did very well off the ball against Leeds and did some fine defensive work whilst constantly running the length of the pitch and back. But with the ball at his feet he was far too wasteful.
Darren Pratley - 6
I actually thought Darren Pratley's performance was very similar to Danns', in that he did some great work off the ball but not an awful lot on it. He was his ever industrious self over on the left of the diamond, constantly marshalling the midfield and pressuring the Leeds players. But when ever he got the ball his touch was slacked and he never really looked in control. However, I did enjoy his run in the first half in which he acted as if he was going to put the ball out due to Madine's injury, but then carried on. That was clever.
Mark Davies - 6
It was a strange performance from Mark Davies as it was hard to notice that he was actually playing well until he left the pitch early. He wasn't as overtly influential as he often is, and there were no driving runs sprinkled with skill to be seen. But after his half time substitution due to injury we failed to keep hold of the ball at all in the second half, which led to Leeds dominating it for the entirety. We really missed Davies ability to pick up, keep hold of and bring forward the ball, and it so nearly cost us. His substitution was due to an 'inflamed achilles', hopefully it's nothing too serious.
Liam Feeney - 6
As is so often the case with Liam Feeney, you have to take the occasional good with the guaranteed bad. I thought Feeney had a relatively decent game on the whole, deployed as a striker he was actually quite dangerous, well he would have been if he wasn't constantly undermined by his woeful finishing. The ultimate example being in the first half when he was played through excellently by Ameobi, with all the time in the world he hit the ball straight into the 'keepers arms. Possibly surprisingly, Feeney's contributes came when he had his back to the goal, as he was actually really good at receiving the ball and holding it up before bringing others into play. When he attempted to play on the shoulder of the defender he'd either be offside or get easily swept off the ball by Bamba. So on the whole, I thought it was actually a promising performance from Feeney, though still a frustrating one.
Gary Madine - 5
The former Sheffield Wednesday striker didn't last very long, suffering concussion after challenging Bamba for a ball and being with drawn after 12 minutes. Though up to that point he was contesting well for the ball, but not much had fallen his way.
Shola Ameobi - 7
Well, wasn't that just about the most obvious thing in the world (I'm genuinely enraged I didn't bet on it). Our new signing was introduced to the action a lot sooner than anyone could have expected, and then just twenty minutes into his debut he did what's known as a 'Heskey' and turn home a volley, to solidify Bolton's name as the kings of the banter era. It was a surprisingly instinctive finish from someone who's not scored too many goals over his career, so maybe there is some hope in that regard yet. In all, it was a very positive performance from Ameobi. He was strong and was able to keep hold of the ball well, but unlike our other current target men, I thought he did have a bit more mobility about him and was able to assert himself more on the ground rather than just in the air. Some fancy flicks and a brilliant through ball for Feeney are testament to that. The signing of Ameobi inspired no confidence upon it's announcement but maybe, just maybe, he's what we need.
Stephen Dobbie - 5
As Mark Davies' half time replacement, he did no where near enough to keep hold of the ball and thus we never got going in the second half. He worked hard to win it back and to get into good positions at times, but his passing was largely atrocious. Had a good chance to put us two nil up which he failed to concert too.
Dorian Dervite - 6
He managed to survive a duration of time on the pitch without costing us the game, which is something.