1. The Big Man
I may as well start with the biggest discussion following Bolton’s frustrating draw against local minnows Bury and that is can Bolton function without Gary Madine? This is a question that 12 months ago you would have been laughed out of the pub for asking but as Bolton have only managed to muster one goal from their last five outings, it seems more than pertinent.
Madine has been a presence for Bolton this year and has undoubtedly been a focal point for Phil Parkinson’s method of play. Madine makes the ball ‘stick,’ whether he receives above or below the waist and he has stuck to his position well, allowing Adam le Fondre to move and free himself up from his often closely watched positions. He’s also chipped in with some pretty important goals, particulary in the second half of the season.
Nothing I have said above will contested greatly by the majority of Wanderers fans. With news emerging that Madine’s shoulder injury may be greater than originally hoped, Bolton really need consider a life without Madine as if we are going to be promoted, I imagine we are going to have to score a goal at some point. As far as I can see it, we have two options if we are to adapt to survive:
i) Keep the Same Tactics
Our 5-3-2 / 5-4-1 system had seen us move into what seemed an unassailable 10 point lead. So it is hard to criticise its effectiveness and I can fully understand why Phil Parkinson has been reluctant to change. The issue with it though is clear as now we have lost Madine, we have lost our focal point. We tried Connor Wilkinson and given his successful loan at Chesterfield Town earlier this season, many of us hoped it would work. A poor performance away at Sheffield United seems to have been fatal for the young forward and he has since found opportunities difficult. I just can’t see how we can continue to play this system without a focal point, so if we do play this system, we must play Wilkinson. Don’t even start telling me David Wheater up front is a good idea.
We seem a little predictable at the moment as a lot of our game play is focussed towards Felipe Morais, which is understandable given the success it has had. The issue is, it does not go unnoticed and other teams are now well aware of the threat posed and our desire to use that threat. We need a change and in my next point I will discuss what I think should be done.
2) Bring James Henry Back in
We are being cramped out of games at the moment and we are becoming far too predictable as I mentioned previously and I propose we shake things up royaly. I think we should start James Henry but not out wide where I think that is a waste of his attacking talents. We should play him off Adam le Fondre in the centre of the pitch.
Josh Vela has been one of our players of the season and I don’t doubt he can play a role in the final two games, I just feel this change would have the desired change to our playing style. I like Henry, he gets his head up and tries to engineer success where others would simply play it safe. This is the sort of bravery on the football I think we need to get us past a Port Vale side who are fighting for their lives.
3) Derik Nosede
The former Real Madrid defender Lethargic, wasteful and out of his depth in our home game against Bury. Given the ascendancy we were likely to have in a home game against a side battling relegation, it was somewhat of a surprise for me that Phil Parkinson played both Derik Osede and Jay Spearing in the same midfield.
We are at the business end of the season now and there are no room for passengers, I strongly urge Parkinson to move Vela back into the midfield battle and give our midfield that added energy, providing the platform for Henry and le Fondre to do the business.
4) Don’t Panic
Despite our poor turn of form, we find ourselves firmly in the ascendancy in the race for promotion. It is understandable that emotions are likely to high given what is at stake but we cannot allow difficult periods to become crises’. A crisis is purely a state of mind and we must ensure we keep our heads and not become too frustrated too easily as fan.
Yes, the game on Tuesday was frustrating but you must try and look at it objectively. We faced a local rival with everything to play for who set out purely to negate our strengths. On another day, Adam le Fondre’s strike may have been given as a goal and the forward may have been awarded a first half penalty after a clumsy Bury tackle. These are the fine margins between success and failure and we still have the privilege of being masters of our own destiny.
Keep your heads.
5) The Jade Assembly
Please fuck that song off, it still managed to be the wort part of my football experience on Tuesday night.