Bolton Wanderers turned on the style on Monday night to put in one of the best all round performances I have seen from them in a long time. There was very little, if really anything, to criticise the team for as they demolished play off chasing Gillingham under the flood lights.
The game started slowly with both sides struggling to make a real impression. The first ten minutes seemed to float by in a boring haze. The first notable moments were horrible shots from range first from Gary Madine and then from Sammy Ameobi, more on those two later though.
The first clear cut opportunity, albeit not that easy, fell to Gillingham after scrappy play from Andrew Taylor, but the ball smacked into the Man the Myth the Chin David Wheater and was safely cleared away.
But then Bolton began to grow into the game. Some slick build up ended with Zach Clough knocking it down to Josh Vela whose shot was deflected just wide. The pair were just warming up.
Not long later there was more slick attacking play from Bolton. Clough danced along the touch line before cutting in field and feeding Vela on the left hand flank. The academy graduate, take note Daily Mail, swung in a perfect cross and Madine really could not miss. 1-0 Bolton with a goal which had shades of Bolton under Coyle when things were going well.
Gillingham tried to hit back but all they could do was miss hit several shots in succession and give Bolton a goal kick. Bolton though kept on coming. Lawrie Wilson and Ameobi combined well feeding Vela who couldn’t hit the target.
With Bolton’s attacking play clicking it should have been two. Clough was set through on goal one on one with the keeper. The goal was calling out to him but he managed to hit it straight at the keeper. A great chance missed but we did not have to wait too long for another.
The ball was hit forward and Vela took it down ahead of Madine. He turned into space and played Clough in on the edge of the Gillingham penalty area. Clough executed a lovely back heel to play Vela in. With Vela one on one with the keeper this time he made no mistake 2-0 Bolton and it was a wonder to behold.
Gillingham went straight down the other end looking to get back into the game. A shot from range flew just past the post. It was clear they had it in them to find a goal but they could not quite find the opening.
The final good chance of the half fell to Bolton. Another masterful cross from the left falls to Ameobi who rifles it towards goal. The Gillingham keeper pulls off a wonderful reaction save but can only play it into the path of Clough. The academy graduate, again take note Daily Mail, turned it home brilliantly but was, correctly, adjudged to be offside.
Gillingham started the second half stronger showing some intent to get back in the game. But rather like in the first half they were unable to create any real openings.
Bolton though continued to look potent going forward. Jay Spearing hit a shot from range which was palmed into the path of Madine who could not apply the finish.
Madine did not have to wait long to make amends for that miss. Spearing whipped in a lovely cross, something of a theme of the night, creating a chance which Madine again simply could not miss. He bagged his brace, a first in 158 appearances going back to 2012.
Bolton continued to pile forward not content with three. Vela gets away with a hand ball in the opposition box before the ball falls to Chris Taylor who sees his shot well saved.
Gillingham then had their best opening of the night. For the first time the got in behind the Bolton defence and were able to pull it back. They failed though to really test Alnwick who made a comfortable save. Once again they showed they had the tools to get back in the game but could not apply a finishing touch.
The finishing touch though was no problem for Bolton. Ameobi collected the ball and jinked across the outside of the penalty area before blasting the ball into the top corner of the goal. There was absolutely no way that shot was getting stopped. 4-0 and Bolton’s biggest win since that victory at Elland Road was on the cards.
The confidence seemed to be spreading though the team as Wheater pulled off a lovely bit of skill on the edge of the Bolton area before clearing. Ok granted it wasn’t that great, but it was Wheater doing it!
Keshi Anderson was introduced to the match and not long after went down in the box. The ref was not interested but the replays showed clear contact from the Gillingham defender.
Wanderers tried to create another but it wouldn’t quite fall for them. They had to accept just the four which is of course hard to take but we will endure.