Here is what I picked out from our progression into the second round of the League Cup after our 2-1 victory over Crewe on Wednesday night.
1 - First Half Curse?
Going back to the Leeds game on Sunday, we started poorly and then gradually grew in to the game after the half time break, however, it shouldn't take that long for us to wake up if were going to be in with a chance of survival in the Championship this season. On Wednesday night, we once again found ourselves trailing at the break having struggled to forge a path through Crewe's back line. Of course, we didn't start at full strength and there were numerous debuts handed out meaning that our start was never going to make pretty football for those watching on. It eventually took a triple change on the hour mark to alter the scoreline and eventually turning the game round. Despite the worries of our first half on Wednesday, this shouldn't matter too much if we're back at full strength tomorrow, but it is crucial that we try and grab the first goal of the game rather than waiting for the opposition to wake up first.
2- Was it important that we got through?
There are several theories surrounding the importance of cup runs or alternatively, the need to focus on the league, for Bolton, these are irrelevant. As we all know, finances are tight and have been for some time, so a win was vital for us to allow us to progress through the rounds and potentially get a TV tie later down the line against a Premier League side. Some may argue that its pointless going on a cup run, but in reality, we need every penny we can get.
3- The Goalkeeper Dilemma
As everybody knows, since the start of last season, both Mark Howard and Ben Alnwick have been battling it out to earn themselves a starting place each week. Just recently it has got to a point where it is impossible to predict which one will be selected, which in a way is a good thing, usually. It's always good to have two available goalkeepers to act as backup for injuries or if one has a particularly poor game, however, with ours being so evenly matched in a good way, its perhaps not always best to keep switching it around because the defence need to set up in a way which they can work with the respective 'keeper and know their surroundings. Whilst alternating, it is impossible for the defence to keep up, particularly when the back line keeps changing too in terms of selection and formation. Ideally we need to stick with one for now, for me it would be Alnwick as the more vocal of the two and a better distribution weight, and keep the same back line for as much of the season as possible to allow them to feel familiar with the system that they're playing in every week rather than keep chopping and changing. Regardless of which 'keeper Parky prefers, its vital that he needs to stick with one and stick to his defensive guns too. From Wednesday night, Alnwick, Little and Burke should remain having all individually impressed whilst Beevers should be brought in to partner Burke at centre half with Andrew Taylor returning to left back for me.
4 - Formation changes
Very similar to my last point, but differs massively at the same time. A structure changes the way a team performs massively ranging from those in goal to those up front and to have a sense of familiarity with it is the key to consistency. For me, the three/five at the back needs to be scrapped. The wing-backs aren't quick enough to be wing backs at this level and we lose out every time down the wings and through the middle because the centre halves are being dragged out to cover for the make-shift full backs who have got too far forward and caught out. We have enough depth and enough ability now in each position to revert to a simple 4-4-2 which allows each player to play in their natural positions and have enough back ups incase of injury. Mark Little impressed me massively on Wednesday and I feel as if he should be allocated the right back spot with Morais RM in front of him. Down the other wing, Andrew Taylor at left back with Will Buckley at LM in front of him with two strikers, little and large, whichever combination of the four, I'm not fussed, each has the potential to work well enough with one another now. Gary Madine in particular could be one to benefit from this massively, his new-found confidence and ability to bring down the ball and knock it on to the other forward with dedicated wingers for wider support when in attack could be the way forward for Wanderers.
5 - Round 2
The draw which took place on Thursday night saw Wanderers earn themselves a tie with fellow Championship side Sheffield Wednesday at home. It, of course, would've been nice to get a Premier League side with their introduction at this round but the bigger Sheffield club of the two will have to do. it'll be a good test to have so early on against a side who were right up there last season and will show how far off the pace we are, it'll be realistic too with the numerous regulations in place with who has to start from the regular first team, who from the younger ranks can't etc. so it should be interesting to see how we go on, especially with another tough league fixture the Saturday before against Derby. Let's hope we can keep progressing through the rounds, but Sheffield Wednesday definitely wont be an easy affair. Que sara sara!
On to Millwall tomorrow, COYWM!