It was far from a classic. Bolton Wanderers scored from the one shot they managed to get on target I’m struggling to remember them creating a single opportunity from open play during 90 minutes at fellow Championship new boys Millwall, who will feel they should have taken all three points from the game.
Here are our player ratings from the guys who resisted Millwall’s advances on Saturday.
GK - Mark Howard: 7
Howard potentially justified Phil Parkinson’s decision to retain him as first choice keeper ahead of Ben Alnwick, pulling off a few decent saves on Saturday. However, his kicking was once again pretty pathetic - he needs to work on his distribution at this level.
RWB - Mark Little: 5
He did enough to suggest he’s a better option than Stephen Darby down the right flank (which didn’t take a lot), but for me he doesn’t get forward enough to justify Parkinson’s wing-back system. He offered very little attacking threat, which subsequently meant we had very little width in the 53 minutes he lasted.
CB - Dorian Dervite: 5
Despite a couple of decent interceptions, Dervite looks out of his depth at this level. His distribution - aka long, aimless hoofs - is poor and he often got caught out of position.
CB - Reece Burke: 8
The on-loan West Ham United youngster was the best player on the park, for me. He looked confident in possession, made some vital interceptions and tackles, and marshalled the defence with a performance beyond his youth. A rash challenge early on, which from where I was sat he looked lucky to escape with a yellow card, aside, I was really impressed and we’ve got a great player on our hands.
CB - Mark Beevers: 7
Generally solid as ever, Beevers ignored the Millwall boo boys and was his usual self at the left of the trio of centre-backs. His performance was capped off by a vital goalline clearance from Steve Morison’s goal-bound strike.
LWB - Andrew Taylor: 6
A fairly solid, if slightly unconvincing performance, in which he offered more attacking threat than Little but lacked a final ball and pace. I fancy Antonee Robinson to usurp Taylor from his position eventually, and I’d feel much more confident in him playing at left-back rather than left wing-back.
CM - Darren Pratley: 3
I think I’m being generous rating his performance that highly. Some Bolton fans will say “oh he works hard” but that simply isn’t enough at this level, and he didn’t even do that at Millwall. Pratley was poor in possession, his touch was way off, he struggled to get up and down and offered us nothing going forwards. I’m not sure how he managed to start the match, let alone complete 90 minutes. It’s time to move on from Pratley.
CM - Jem Karacan: 6
He got involved more as the game wore on, but we need more urgency from our central midfielders. For me, this requires a shift in formation to have a holding player in behind Cullen and Karacan to give them both more freedom to push forward and support the attackers. Karacan looked decent, but his first thought was always to pass the ball backwards, which slowed our attacks down and was at times painful to watch.
CM - Josh Cullen: 6
Cullen looks like he’s still acclimatising to Championship football, but showed signs of promise. He often seems to want too much time on the ball, which he’ll learn as he plays more at this level, but he does look like a decent player. He made one superb goal-saving challenge in the second half, which showed his ability to get up and down the pitch. There’s more than a little of Mark Davies about Cullen and, like Karacan, I’d like to see him playing higher up the field and given more freedom to make things happen.
CF - Adam Le Fondre: 6
Worked hard and tried to get involved despite a serious lack of service, but we could do with him trying to get in behind defences to make the most of Madine’s aerial prowess.
CF - Gary Madine: 7
Did everything asked of him in yet another dull display of “boot it at Madine and pray for something to happen off the resulting set-piece when the ref finally gives him a decision.” It’s boring, I’m tired of it, and Gary himself must be fed up of having 50-yard hoofs launched at him and then being manhandled by aggressive centre-halves. Madine had a thankless task at Millwall yet still won the vast majority of balls into him, but there was rarely any other Bolton player anywhere near him and this is something Parkinson has to address.
RWB - Filipe Morais: 7 (replaced Little, 53)
Scored a superb free-kick and actually ran at players and gave Millwall’s defence something to worry about. He was a refreshing change from what had come before, and was responsible for us getting anything out of the game.
CF - Adam Armstrong: 6 (replaced Le Fondre, 69)
Like Le Fondre before him he didn’t have much to feed off. Armstrong looked bright and his pace, which was sadly lacking from Saturday’s side, offered us something different.
CF - Aaron Wilbraham: 4 (replaced Madine, 83)
He had nearly 10 minutes to impress at the end and, just like at Crewe in midweek, he didn’t. Looked well short of Championship quality on this very brief evidence.