Bolton Wanderers beat Derby County on the 29th of September 2018. On Boxing Day 2018 they won again. In between those two dates we have seen misfortune, misery and mayhem both on and off the field but hopefully a 2-1 victory over Rotherham United, a result that has lifted a weight only the titan Atlas could bear, will bookend that dark period and allow the club to move forward.
Goals from Sammy Ameobi and veteran Gary O’Neil either side of a Will Vaulks header saw Wanderers over the line though the win came about as a result of good team performance rather than sparkling showings from individuals.
My word I’m going to enjoy writing this!
Here are my player ratings:
Ben Alnwick 7
He may have been unusually unconvincing at set pieces, understandable when one considers that the Millers have almost an entire first-team over 6 feet tall, but his save at 1-1 to deny Vaulks turned the game in Wanderers’ favour. Some, myself included, have called for Remi Matthews to be included to improve distribution but Alnwick’s best attribute is making big saves. This was a timely reminder of that and it’s why he’s our Number One.
Jason Lowe 7
I wasn’t as bowled over by Lowe’s showing in an unfamiliar position at full-back like some others, though I must admit after taking some time to adjust to the role he provided a very solid and useful outlet on the flanks. He remains limited in possession but a scrappy game like this needed industry over style and he offered it in spades.
David Wheater 6.5
Solid for 89 minutes out of the 90 and were Jamie Proctor anything better than useless that lapse would have cost us. A “What Happened Next?” moment where he lost the flight of the ball and headed straight to the former Wanderers striker with no cover behind him blotted his copybook but other than that he was a reliable as ever.
Mark Beevers 7
Nobody can deny Beevers has great character taking into account the way he has responded this season to losing his place to Jack Hobbs. Yet again he returned to the side and played well, handling Michael Smith with ease and providing a hugely important clearance after Alnwick had saved to deny Vaulks. I have said for a while that defence isn’t our issue and with Hobbs, Wheater and Beevers all playing well one feels we are halfway to solving our problems.
Andrew Taylor 6
He acquitted himself well until he was substituted in the second half and I hope he hasn’t done himself any real damage. He had a good game against Brentford showing more inclination to attack and did the same in this game. One can tell that Taylor has played at a higher level than this as his touch is much better than some of his teammates.
Marc Wilson 6
I didn’t notice him do an awful lot right or wrong I must say. I don’t think we should deploy him in midfield as we lack legs in that role which is a flaw that is often preyed upon. I’d drop him for Stoke which isn’t an indictment of his performances but of the need for mobility over stability.
Joe Williams 6.5
He still looks a tad rusty and must improve the quality of his passing. However, I think he reads the game very well and is always keen to drive the team forward once he wins the ball. I certainly think we look a much better side with him in it rather than without. Personally, I would like to see him partnered with Josh Vela and watch them run around like lunatics.
Gary O’Neil 7.5
He followed up his MOM display at Brentford with not just a goal and assist but also a lung-busting performance that defies his age. He showed great composure for his goal, something our strikers should take note of, and was always willing to receive the ball and get the team forward. He won’t be able to do it every week I am sure, but he looks to have the capacity to be this year’s Karl Henry.
Sammy Ameobi 6.5
Sammy has that bit of magic nobody else in our squad has. His goal was very well taken and he is always available as an out-ball. He faded in the second-half, perhaps nursing an injury, though it’s clear how vital he is for us to have any success. If he can remain fit and motivated, I think he could score at least 5/6 more goals this season.
Clayton Donaldson 6.5
Donaldson never looks like scoring but had a very useful game in every other respect. He played a huge part in the winning goal and has pace and skill none of our other forwards possess. He has a role to play certainly but I would still advocate Doidge and Magennis together if we stick with a two-man forward line.
Christian Doidge 6
I have too long been ignoring some aspects of Doidge’s game in the hope that he could play himself into form. However, he missed the one chance he got, albeit a difficult one, and looked very lightweight at times. Can he come good? I think so, but he needs to score again and quickly.
Pawel Olkowski 6
Didn’t do much right or wrong. Will be disappointed to have lost his place at full-back to a midfielder.
Josh Magennis 6
Had a good free-kick well saved by Marek Rodak (he must be sick of the sight of Rotherham’s keeper) and worked hard to help see the result through.
Will Buckley N/A
Phil Parkinson 7
I’m very pleased he played two strikers in a must-win game and though eyebrows were raised when one saw Lowe at full-back it was a decision that was vindicated. He needed a result and he got it. Let’s just hope he doesn’t revert to old habits in the coming games.