Wanderers won back-to-back Championship away matches for the first time in four years at the Madejski with a victory ensured by Bolton’s ability to close the game out, something that was distinctly lacking in our previous outing against Bristol City.
Yanic Wildschut’s 48th minute goal proved to be the winner, the Dutchman’s second decisive goal in three substitute appearances since joining on loan.
Bolton now have 7 points out of a possible 9 and long may our fantastic start continue.
Here are my player ratings:
Ben Alnwick 8
He had two huge saves to make in the first half and did so with aplomb. The first which denied John Swfit from a free-kick was a stunner and that he showed the presence of mind to dive on the loose ball to prevent a follow up was just as commendable. He now has real competition for his place and responded to it very well.
Pawel Olkowski 7
I am probably Pav’s biggest fan, but I don’t think he was as exceptional as some seem to in this game. Swift had the beating of him too easily on a number of occasions and his passing radar was off for the most part. However, in the second half especially he made several crucial interventions when he stopped trying to be so cavalier with his positioning, often acting as more of a winger than Craig Noone. He is a very talented player who can be key for us, but he needs to start thinking more as a defender for me.
David Wheater 7.5
Against the likes of Sam Baldock and Marc McNulty Wheater was never going to struggle to win any aerial battles so he had to deal with intricate one-twos between the forwards instead. Unfortunately, the referee’s decision to book the centre-half within ten minutes neutered him somewhat, meaning he wasn’t able to close down either striker as often as he would have liked. Nevertheless, he was solid and made a fantastic intervention to deny Yakou Meite after his partner, Mark Beevers, fell asleep and allowed the winger to round Alnwick. It was a tackle that felt like a goal.
Mark Beevers 7.5
The aforementioned mistake when challenging Meite aside, I though Beevers acquitted himself very well. His biggest failing is his ability to make challenges on the floor yet this was where he excelled against Reading, making several timely interventions in both halves. He was impeccable when competing in the air, as per usual, and if he can continue to improve when tackling with his feet we will have a very useful centre-half on our hands.
Andrew Taylor 8
Phil Parkinson said in his post-match interview that he thought Taylor’s touch on the ball after Alnwick saved to deny Swift was hugely important but, in my opinion, it was the only poor decision he made all game. Taylor knocked the ball back into a dangerous area with that touch and Alnwick bailed him out. However, that was a minute blot on his copy book as he was otherwise exceptional. He, like Alnwick, responded very well to the new-found competition at left-back provided by Jonathan Grounds with a composed and solid performance in this game and I am feeling much more confident that he can be our starting full-back this season.
Jason Lowe 7
Lowe is a limited footballer and frankly I didn’t notice him during this game but perhaps that is the point of him. He is a screen, as Marc Iles so often tells us, and you see through a screen without noticing it. In this regard I think Lowe does exactly what it says on the tin. He made some important tackles and passed the ball quickly and effectively to players who are better than he is. It doesn’t sound difficult but if he keeps performing this unnoticed role he will go far in a Wanderers shirt.
Luke Murphy 6.5
He tried to do the role that Lowe did except I noticed him. I only recognised that Murphy was playing, however, because he made more mistakes than his midfield partner. That Gary O’Neil continues to replace him around the 60-minute mark shows he isn’t quite up to speed after being banished to Leeds’ u23s, so the lack of sharpness is acceptable. However, I think his place is up for grabs at the moment if we decided to play Erhun Oztumer in midfield (with Josh Vela moving into a holding role) so he needs to improve.
Craig Noone 8
Noone is playing out of his skin right now to ensure that when Sammy Ameobi does return to full fitness he won’t relinquish his place. Not only does he provide a creative threat, as evidenced with his killer ball for Wildschut’s goal, but his desire to do the dirty work defensively makes him invaluable. This mixture of talent and industry is a joy to watch and I hope he can maintain this level of performance.
Josh Vela 8
He had one moment of madness towards the end of the game where he should have cleared the ball yet passed it back into trouble but aside from this he had one of the best games I have seen from him for some time. It seemed that Liam Kelly was allowed too much time and space to dictate play during the second half yet the fact that he created nothing shows me Vela did a good job in halting the young midfielder. During the game I felt Vela was shirking this responsibility but looking back it is clear he was the reason why Kelly couldn’t be as effective as he wanted to be. He has been targeted by some fans this season but more showings like this will silence the critics.
Will Buckley 6.5
I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon of singling out the former Brighton winger for criticism, but his day could have been so different if he had scored his big chance in the first half. His was a tame effort straight at the keeper whilst the man who replaced him slotted his chance home. I don’t think this was the death knoll for Buckley’s Wanderers career, but he must improve to maintain his place in the team as simply being better defensively than Wildschut won’t be enough.
Josh Magennis 7.5
He didn’t score today so I was tempted to give him a rating of 1 but then again almost everything else he did was magnificent so who am I to judge. With Magennis leading the line you just feel like something will happen every time the ball goes near him. I do, however, think that he needs to up his fitness levels to continue to play to this standard. He appeared to tire towards the end of the game and I thought that Clayton Donaldson could have replaced him rather than Noone. Super Josh was again super, but I still think he can go up a gear.
Yanic Wildschut 8
He’s big, he’s quick and he can finish. When you marry these attributes with the fact he hates Wigan you have a potential fans favourite on your hands.
Gary O’Neil 7
I don’t think he’s The Closer we want but he may be The Closer we need right now. I like his tenacity and he still looks as fit as a fiddle.
Clayton Donaldson 6
He looked rusty but willing. When fully-fit he will be a very useful asset I am sure.