I hold my hands up. My pre-season pessimism proved premature, and while I could sit here and do the easy job of praising new faces Lawrie Wilson, "the Fresh" Prince-Desir Gouano and Gary Madine, I want to highlight the more familiar members of the squad who have been written off by myself/Bolton fans/Neil Lennon in the past for making a promising start to the 2015/16 season.
I've seen a lot of things in football. I've seen a Darren Pratley scissor kick. I've seen Liam Feeney reach the back post with a cross. And now I've seen an organised back four, and we have Dorian Dervite to thank for it. It has to be mentioned at this point that Prince certainly played his part alongside Dorian (I'm struggling to remember a better Wanderers debut in recent memory), but it was definitely the latter that marshalled the defence today.
It's always been clear that we have a decent defender in Dorian, but it hasn't always resulted in performances on the pitch. However today he led the defence in a way we haven't seen. Chris Martin, who has scored goals for fun in this league for Derby County, looked very, very ordinary. As a defensive unit, we were solid against what is supposedly the best team in the league, and I think that we've got Dervite to thank for it.
"Hang on, weren't you saying he'd be the player to flop the day of the game? I believe the term cab horse was used?"
How wrong was I? Dean Moxey was superb, and for me the man of the match. Moxey was given little to no support from Pratley, playing out of position again, this time on the left of an at times overly-narrow midfield diamond. He dealt with Russell and Tom Ince (£5 million. Five million pounds. Five. Million. Pounds) with ease and looked every part the player we have lacked at left back for so long.
I'm delighted to be eating my words. I hope to do it another 45 times this season.
I have a soft spot for Jay. So much so that he gets first name treatment from me in the stands ("good tackle, Jay") that only a select few players have been blessed with (Glenville Le Fondre being another). Shipped out by Neil Lennon to Blackburn Rovers last season after being hauled off at Carrow Road at half time last October, it appeared today as if Jay had never been away.
Harrying the £5 million man Tom Ince (I know, £5 million) into obscurity, distributing the ball well and getting himself about the pitch like the Jay Spearing we know was great to see. Released from the shackles of captaincy, it appears as if Jay's Bolton Wanderers career has been resurrected, and I for one couldn't be happier.
I do have to say at this point that Jay Spearing committed the cardinal sin. He dived. I thought it at the time, and after seeing it again, my mind is made up. He dived. He deserved the second yellow card. Neil Lennon says that he wants to appeal the decision, but it'll be a fruitless task. Jay dived, he deserved his punishment, and it could have cost us the game. A shame to end such a good performance with that. However, his standing ovation from the crowd shows the gratitude of the Wanderers faithful, and the hope from the stands that we have our Jay Boy back.
Reading the team sheet an hour before kick off, I was really surprised to see Danns' name ahead of that of boy wonder and all round football genius Josh Vela. Danns' distribution wasn't at its best, but he certainly played a role off the ball. What he might lack in possession, he gives us in energy when the opposition have it. Like Spearing, after an initial good start, Danns went off the boil, but he certainly showed his worth today.
He's still trying to break a world record for the amount of corners won in one game, and his crosses still struggle to find a white shirt, but Feeney's energy and efforts today were reassuring. Everybody's favourite crowd villain had a decent game in an unfamiliar forward position, and ran himself into the ground. Last season at the Macron, Derby were able to take short goal kicks to their centre halves without pressure, allowing them to build up from the back. Feeney and Madine were clearly under instruction from Neil Lennon to ensure that this didn't happen this time around, forcing Scott Carson to go long, disrupting Derby's style of play from the outset.
As a Bolton Wanderers fan, all I ever ask for is endeavour. It's why Paul Robinson is looked upon favourably, and why Ivan Klasnić, despite his undoubted ability, was infuriating to watch at times. My point is this: the above players will not win you a title, nor is their position in the team cemented, but when they pull on a white shirt, I want everything they can give. Each one did that yesterday. Long may it continue.