What a win! Bolton finally ended their Championship away-day hoodoo with a very enjoyable 1-0 win against Sheffield United. It’s no secret I have a great dislike for the Steel City’s 2nd biggest team so to watch us neuter Billy Sharp and for Big Gary Madine to net the winner was a dream come true.
It was a much-changed Bolton team that had me thoroughly worried pre-match, but respect to our Manager, the boys produced a fantastic performance. Here are my Player Ratings:
Ben Alnwick 9
He has his good days and his bad but in this match Benny was immense. In the form Leon Clarke is in you’d have expected him to bury his one-on-one in the first half, but not on Alnwick’s watch. His save was as important as it was fantastic (and he kept out Baldock twice to preserve the lead too). Darren Pratley said after the game that he thinks he’s up there with the Championship’s best. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but Benny deserves great plaudits for this showing.
Reece Burke 8
He is a good player, we all know that, but to see him included today was a shock. Nevertheless, he managed to deal with Leon Clarke fairly well, even though the striker got two great chances in the game. What impressed me though was his tenacity in his battle with Clarke. While Richard Stearman went down like a tonne of bricks every time Madine went near him, Burke took every elbow and knock from Clarke in his stride for which he deserves great credit.
David Wheater 8
It was always going to be busy for Wheats after we scored given our proclivity to going into ultra-defence mode when we take the lead, but he handled it very well. He is great in these dogged defensive situations and will be so important to us this season for that reason.
Mark Beevers 8
See above. He and Wheater have the same skill set and days like this suit them down to the ground. He made some great interventions and slide tackles, looking like the Wheater of last season.
Filipe Morais 6
Possibly the only player whose performance can be criticised, but he still managed to defend well despite not being in his usual position. The problem with giving him this role over Little is that he can only focus on one aspect of it at a time. He was told to defend so any attacking effect he could have had was stifled totally. He’s still a hero in my eyes but not a Championship player.
Karl Henry 7
He tired in the second half but worked very hard to preserve the lead. His defending against Mark Duffy was great to watch and I remain convinced he is one of our most important players.
Darren Pratley 7
He has a new lease of life next to Henry and was very effective at breaking up the play yet again. As a partnership, they lack the pace to keep up with some players, but they give everything and I don’t think we can do without them.
Antonee Robinson 9
This kid has got real potential. His cross for Madine’s goal was brilliant and he was so good that Wilder was forced to haul off Cameron Carter-Vickers after only 20 minutes to put on someone more capable of containing him. Robinson has always been able to attack but his defence was equally as impressive in this game. I pray we can keep him for the season.
Josh Cullen 8
Where has this kind of performance been all season?? Pre-match the thought of him against John Fleck and John Lundstram had me panicked but he battled hard, winning almost every aerial battle, whilst still providing some calmness and guile on the ball. It was a performance that reeked of him desperate to stay here and not rot in West Ham’s reserves, but it really helped us win so I can’t complain.
Gary Madine 9
Whatever he called Billy Sharp and whatever happened last time we visited Bramall Lane, he had the last laugh today. He got a fair bit of stick from the United fans (jeering him was the only noise they made all game) but he answered with a calm finish for the winning goal and bullied their centre-halves all game. If he wasn’t before, he’s certainly good enough now.
Adam Le Fondre 8
This is ALF Mark Two. He isn’t just a lazy poacher anymore, he’s a sneaky, clever workhorse. He never gave the Sheffield centre-halves a moment’s peace and more than merited his recall. Long Live ALF!
Mark Little 7
Didn’t do much more than Fil on the right but his goal-line clearance that almost killed him makes him deserve a higher rating. Looking at the pictures of his badly damaged nose he gets a 10 for courage!!
Adam Armstrong 5
I don’t dislike him but when he came on to replace ALF who had worked his heart out and then then didn’t look that bothered, he made it difficult not to criticise.
Josh Vela 5
He didn’t look like his head was in the game and I doubt he was fit given he was dropped. Cullen’s performance means his place isn’t safe.