Bolton Wanderers were comprehensively beaten and outplayed by champions-elect, Sheffield United, at Bramall Lane with very few of the players on show having even half-decent performances.
Unfortunately the gulf in class was plain to see and Phil Parkinson has to change this with big games against Bristol Rovers and Fleetwood Town to come. Here are my player ratings:
Mark Howard 6.5
The returning Howard was OK against his former club and not at fault for either goal. However he looked nervy all game and the penalty incident occurred moments after he had skewed the ball out for a needless attacking throw-in. He did make one incredible save to deny Sharp, though, and I would put his nerviness down to a lack of match sharpness.
Derik Osede 6
Teams have worked out that in this back 3 Derik is the man you target in the air. James Hanson won everything against him in a first half he will want to forget. He did improve when moved into midfield for Tom Thorpe and this should show Parkinson that he has to play Derik there or not at all.
David Wheater 7
Wheats has been outstanding of late and while he wasn’t to that standard in this game he was certainly our best player. Some of the tackles he makes show his pedigree and Sharp got no change out of him whatsoever. Very unlucky with the penalty as it was a dive by Carruthers but even if he had chosen to stay on his feet I think he had beaten Wheater and could have scored himself.
Mark Beevers 6
I am now worried about him. Recently he has been outshone by Wheater but only because his partner has been playing incredibly well. Against United he just wasn’t great. At fault for Sharp’s first and beaten all too easily by Hanson at times, Beevers needs to improve and quickly.
Dean Moxey 6
Defensively: useless, going forward: OK. A typical Moxey performance and what we can expect to see every game until Taylor is back.
Filipe Morais 6.5
Coming up against a very good full-back in Daniel Lafferty, Morais struggled to have a real impact. When he did beat Lafferty he often produced a decent delivery but most of the time the Burnley man had him in his pocket. At least he was trying to change the game.
Tom Thorpe 5
Fairly anonymous when he was on and him being brought off allowed Derik to improve in midfield. I must admit I thought Fleck was lucky to not be sent off for the challenge on him as it was reminiscent of the elbow that saw Walsall’s Joe Edwards sent off earlier in the season. Derik should take his place though.
Josh Vela 6
Not great but it’s not his fault. We have seen vela tried in this position before and it never worked. Until he was employed as a ‘Number 10’ he was an average player and looks just that in the current system. He tried hard to change the game in the second half but cannot impact the match when so far away from the box.
James Henry 6.5
Our best player in the first half as he tried to get at the Sheffield back-line but faded in the second period. I don’t think he should be employed centrally and would start on the right for me in a different system.
Conor Wilkinson 6
Decent for about 20 minutes then let his head go and was ineffectual. We need Gary Madine back and fast.
Adam Le Fondre 6
Couldn’t get into the game but this isn’t his fault. The system just doesn’t suit him and if we play another long ball up to him I will start supporting Wigan. I really feel for ALF and hope Parky works out how to use him.
Dorian Dervite 7
Yes, a 7! For a man who hasn’t played all season and in the past has been downright awful, Dervite looked decent. Hanson had a hard time against him and he was certainly better than Beevers. Hopefully this is his level.
Chris Long 6
Should have come on for Wilkinson but didn’t do an awful lot.
Max Clayton 6.5
Better than Long and had our only decent shot of the game. He is a striker at least and should be played there more often.