Bolton Wanderers lost again on Saturday, this time to table topping Middlesbrough. But it wasn't all bad, in fact, it was a kinda encouraging performance from a decent number of the players.
A quick aside before we jump in, I'd just like to say that, even though I may be reading too much into it, I love how much our goal meant to Vela, Clough, Derik, Holding and Maher. They were screaming, celebrating as if we weren't already down. To me it just shows that these younger lads really do care and it gives me a sprinkling of hope for next year.
Any way, here's how the players did:
Ben Amos - 0
Sigh. I still think, just, there is a talented goalkeeper somewhere in Ben Amos, but I get ever more doubtful with every passing game. He's suddenly started diving preposterously early for shots which leaves his goal exposed, which is exactly what happened for the equaliser. Also his distribution was woeful. Least he didn't concede from 30 yards.
Niall Maher - 6
After a shaky start that saw a couple of positional areas, Maher settled into his third appearance for the Whites and put in another very solid showing at right back. Ran the channel well to try and support the attack, his long throw even led to our goal, but importantly hardly anything came down his side of the pitch all game. Should be first choice right back going into next season.
Rob Holding - 7
Another standard Holding performance in which he didn't put a foot wrong and was let down by his senior defensive colleagues.
David Wheater - 5.5
Was alright enough but still don't see why he's playing at this point.
Dean Moxey - 0
Moxey continues his atrocious end to the season with another gutless performance. Both goals and practically every opportunity Boro had came down his side and all could have been prevented if he wasn't weak in the tackle, could time his jumping for headers and actually got close to attackers.
Josh Vela - 6
Vela has come in for a bit of deserved stick recently but I think he proved that he does have what it takes to play in midfield on Saturday. Now, he doesn't make much of a presence defensively, which doesn't matter too much if there are solid DMs along side him, but on the ball going forward he was very good. He played a couple of really nice through balls for Clough, generally linked up play well and scored a fine goal. Maybe we've been looking at Vela the wrong way and he'd actually be better served playing further up the pitch?
Derik Osede - 8
Man of the match by a country mile, Derik looks right at home in a defensive midfield role. He read the game exceptionally throughout and was nearly always in the right spot to cut out danger, then his composed and efficient passing got us moving up the pitch. Also knows when to smack it away when needed, too. Aside from an early shot that cannoned of the crossbar Stewart Downing was anonymous largely because of Derik. I still see his future in centre back alongside Holding, but his versatility is nice to see.
Darren Pratley - 0
Like Moxey, Pratley is continuing to be utter shite. It was him, the captain, who chose to stop running and completely allow David Nugent to waltz through our defence and tee up the winner. That aside he had no other noticeable impact on the game at all. Shite.
Mark Davies - 5
His first game for a while and it's difficult to say we don't look a lot better with Davies in the side. He's a player who can actually pass and move with the ball. He showed some nice runs and touches too, but one can't help but feel that's just in attempt to put himself in the shop window.
Emile Heskey - 4
I'm annoyed at Bolton for making me dislike Heskey, as he's a smashing bloke, but he really shouldn't be starting football matches in 2016. It wasn't Heskey's worst showing and his touch for Vela's goal was clever, but other wise he would just slow down any momentum we had in attack. Admittedly everything went to shit upon him leaving the field, but that was more due to his replacement rather than himself leaving.
Zach Clough - 6
One of Zach's brightest performances this year. He got on the ball and was positive with it, always running straight at Boro's defenders and often bamboozling them and drifting straight by. If he had better support in attacking areas he may well have made an bigger impact on the game.
Liam Trotter - 1
Phillips has made some stinking decisions in his short second tenure and bringing Liam Trotter on to play as a lone striker is right up there with the worst of them. The thinking behind Trotter's positioning was that he would be the best at holding the ball up, which seemed foolish to me as we hadn't held the ball up once all game. I can't blame Trotter as he was a total fish out of water, but he was not good at all.
Kaiyne Woolery - 2
Came on late in the day and did show his lack of experience in the dying moments when he lost the ball at the other end of the pitch instead of either shooting or running into the corner. Will learn from it though.