“Assists don't mean anything,” a certain football website editor told me when I was recently compiling a list of stats for an article. Said article did reveal an alarming lack of creativity among the ranks at Bolton Wanderers, but all that has changed with the arrival of a certain Portuguese winger.
Last night Bolton notched their second four-goal haul of the season against Gillingham, and a second quadruple of goals in four days as they dispatched the Kent side with a 4-0 away victory - the first time Bolton have achieved that feat since the opening day of the 2011/12 season at Queens Park Rangers, and the biggest away win since a 5-1 win at Leeds three years ago.
The star of the show, also for the second time in four days, was Felipe Morais. The winger, not content with notching the first Wanderers assist hat-trick since who-knows-when at Fleetwood on Saturday, and bettered it by incredibly laying on all four goals at Gillingham.
His seven assists in two games alone make him Bolton’s most creative player of the entire season, but add to that two further assists this season and he now ranks fourth in League One - with nine assists in just nine matches.
Morais’ form typifies an unexpected turnaround in Wanderers’ fortunes in the last two games. Bolton had scored just five goals in the previous four fixtures and we were worried a potential promotion push was beyond the side, but suddenly they look like a team possessed and full of confidence.
Phil Parkinson unsurprisingly stuck with the same eleven that dismantled Fleetwood's unbeaten record at the weekend, with Darren Pratley continuing his unexpected injury comeback in midfield alongside Derik Osede.
Wanderers were clearly buoyed by Saturday's victory and were all over Gillingham from the off, and took advantage of their bright start after just three minutes. Morais whipped in a corner and the goal machine David Wheater nodded the ball home virtually unmarked from a few yards out at the back post.
There was no letting up from the visitors, and the lead was nearly doubled a few minutes later as Adam Le Fondre, fresh from scoring his first goals back at the club at the weekend, fired a volley just over following good hold-up play by Gary Madine. But soon enough Le Fondre did have his goal, as he headed home unmarked from close range following a lovely clipped cross in from Morais after more good hold-up play from Madine.
Wanderers were running riot against Gillingham for a second time this season, and the hosts had barely threatened an attack. But they were almost let back into the game when Ben Alnwick dropped a Bradley Dack free-kick, only for his blushes to be spared by the Bolton defence.
Bolton seemed to be drifting towards a comfortable 2-0 lead at the break, but on the stroke of half-time they made absolutely sure that the game was done and dusted. A corner from - guess who? - was whipped into the near post and headed home by Mark Beevers to give the visitors a commanding 3-0 half-time lead - and sparked a chorus of boos from the frustrated home supporters.
Gillingham clearly got a telling off from manager Adrian Pennock at half-time and came out offering a spark of a threat in the early stages of the second half - only for Morais to swiftly end any thoughts of an unlikely comeback.
A long kick downfield was well dealt with by Beevers, collected by Madine and fed into the path of Le Fondre, who moved the ball out to the right for Morias. The winger ran at his full-back, threw a couple of stepovers then delivered a lovely low cross into the path of Josh Vela to steer home into the far corner for his ninth goal of the season, making him Bolton's joint top scorer alongside Madine.
Wanderers continued to hunt more goals, with Pratley somehow denied a spectacular scissor kick strike by goalkeeper Stuart Nelson and Morais continuing to run rings around the Gillingham defence.
Bolton's fine away form is promising given that six of our remaining ten matches are away from the Macron, including a trip to promotion rivals Scunthorpe United next month. Next up we welcome Northampton Town, who've won their last three matches, to the Macron on Saturday.