I didn't get in bed until 3AM last night, or this morning rather. Traffic, diversions, inexplicable junction closures, all to watch Bolton Wanderers yet again slump to a defeat. On that note, a big thanks to the BWFC Team Coach who, probably unbeknown to them, guided us home.
The most frustrating thing about Tuesday night's defeat to MK Dons was that it really shouldn't have been a defeat. We controlled the game for the vast majority, dare I say dominated? We were attacking reasonably well, crating out some good opportunities, passing the ball well through midfield. The goal just continued to elude us.
But more about that as I go through my ratings:
Ben Amos - 6
I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record but, once again, Amos had next to nothing to do all game, but everything he did do was composed. His distribution is easily the best we've ever had from a goalkeeper, at least in my time. In the case of the goal, there was little more Amos could do when the attacker was completely unmarked and slotted home from eight yards.
Lawrie Wilson - 6
It was yet another solid display from Wilson, but it will be remember for one slip that ultimately cost us the game. Due to the formation, he wasn't offered much protection from Vela, but still admirably dealt with everything that came down his flank, he got forward well too and helped provide some much missed width. But in the pivotal moment he slipped, missed the ball which allowed Powell to waltz in on goal and stick the ball in the net. Mistakes like that will be punished, however harsh it may seem.
Dorian Dervite - 7
Despite more questionable positioning and being made to look like an idiot by Barker, Dervite put in another strong performance. He was once more the leader at the back, constantly talking to his fellow defenders, and when he was called upon to win the ball he more often than not did so. He can't pass a ball for shit though.
Prince-Désir Gouano - 5.5
I'm not going on record to say that Prince's impressive debut was a fluke, but it's beginning to look that way. I still have faith in him, as he is only a young lad adapting to a new league and way of life, but he is no where near as solid as first appeared. There were some good moments against MK, one storming challenge on the edge of the box in particular, but there was also a lot of shakiness and uncertainty. There's definitely a real clanger in Prince waiting to emerge. Also should have buried a header in the first half, too.
Dean Moxey - 7
Moxey was good again, very good in fact. Actually, come to think of it, I don't remember a player getting past him on a single occasion. He dealt with everything assuredly, looked strong and was constantly up and down the pitch. Which just makes it a shame that he came off injured, knowing our luck, he'll probably be out for six months.
Neil Danns - 7
This may surprise a few people who didn't make the laborious trip to Milton Keynes last night, but Danns had quite a good game. Playing at the base of the diamond he was tasked with winning the ball and getting it moving again, a job he did to great effect. There was one brief scare where he nearly lost the ball, but he didn't and everything else he did correct. Not one murmur or cry of disappointment was uttered in his direction. More of the same, please.
Josh Vela - 6
It was a quiet game from Vela, but by no means bad. On the right of midfield, he was nice and tidy on the ball, and helped out in the task of winning it back and keeping the ball moving for the Whites. He battled hard and linked up well with Clough and Wilson, but I don't remember him being involved too much more in going forward.
Mark Davies - 7
It was another very good performance from the stand-in captain, although not for the reason we've come to expect from Davies. He's not only taken the armband of the injured Darren Pratley, but also his position, and Davies did his upmost to replace the presence of the skipper by constantly battling and harassing for the ball. One expertly timed tackle on the half way line displayed that his numerous injures have yet to make him frail. This battling performance came at a cost, and Davies wasn't as near as influential going forward as he can be. He drove forward on the ball quite a lot, but he left the majority of the creation down to Clough. This makes for a dilemma in my head, where is Davies' best position? Now, I think we'd all probably agree behind the striker, but I'm beginning to think it might be playing a little deeper, and I'll tell you why. When played in an advanced position, Davies is liable to come deep in search of the ball, often leaving us with out options in those areas. If Davies can play in a more central midfield role, and get on the ball in the middle of the park and bring it forward, I think it may work a treat. Just one of the reasons I want us to return to a 4-2-3-1.
Zach Clough - 8
Two man of the match performances on the trot now, Zach Clough is slowly but surely feeling his way back into things - just in time to score a hat-trick against Dougie this Saturday. He was our one firework in another wise team of sparklers, in the first half especially. He looks confident again, he's getting on the ball and gracing by players with complete ease. He went on two mazy runs in the first half, the first of which he picked the ball up on the half way line, took three defenders to the cleaners but was then denied by a fantastic sliding challenge as he was about to pull the trigger. Another chance came his way from a Madine knock down, which was well saved. The goals are coming, and his performance against MK eradicated the very little doubt I had over him.
Gary Madine - 5
I don't know how many times we can praise Madine for his barn storming performances up front whilst ignoring the fact he's missing at least one great chance per game. I don't want to single him out as he's got a tough job in an underperforming team, but he's got to step up with the goals sooner or later. His chance against MK came after he brought the ball down brilliantly, turned with two defenders hanging on his shoulder but his shot was deflected wide. That being said, he once again won absolutely everything in the air and once we play someone upfront who will actually feed off the knockdowns I think we'll be alright.
Liam Feeney - 3
It wasn't even a 'Feeney out of Ten' performance last night. He was bad, but it's hard to criticise him too much when it's clear that he can not play upfront. Yes, I know every footballer should be able to do the basics, ala pass a ball in a straight line, cross a ball into the box, look across your line to make sure your in front of the defenders. No question, but when it's so ball achingly clear that Feeney can not play up top, I feel more like pitting him than berating him. It was a frustrating performance, however, as every time he received the ball in a dangerous position he was flagged offside and with that, he then soon began to wander from Madine in search of space, which led to the big man being isolated once more. This has to stop. He even proved on one occasion during the game what he can (sometimes) do when played out wide: a quick burst of pace got him past a player, he whipped a deep ball into the box to Madine who nodded it down for Clough who went close to scoring. If Feeney is to play at all, it has to be on the flanks.
Emile Heskey - 5
It's getting a little worrying for me that our only back up plan, our only contingency for when things go wrong is to throw Heskey on and hope for the best. It's not the worst plan in the world, but it can't be our only one. Saying that, he made an impact once again upon his introduction. Being a bother in the penalty area and twice hitting shots on target, however, they were easily saved.
Stephen Dobbie - 3
When Moxey limped away from the pitch, his replacement was Stephen Dobbie, which also brought a complete change to the formation. Dobbie made a few decent touches but largely looked off the pace, especially when he was slow to react to rebound that bounced to him,
Tom Walker - 5
The winger was, once again, given no time to make a real impact in the game, but his introduction finally saw us get some natural width and we immediately looked more balanced with him on the left. Has to start on Saturday.