So, the first live game of the season for me and I had the pleasure of watching a spirited Bolton display at a disappointingly soulless Madejski Stadium. Readings fans seemed as toothless as their team, leaving a good Bolton away crowd to make all the noise. Whilst Reading have a quality midfield they really do have absolutely nothing for an end product. If they don’t sort it out by the end of August, then I can see my preseason relegation prediction for them coming true. As for Bolton, a team I also considered not good enough to stay up, what about them? Here’s my five things:
- Wing wizards. After what can only be considered a disappointing first season overall with Bolton, Noone has put his injury niggles behind him and is off to a flyer. He was outstanding in the first 15 minutes and a similarly outstanding second half performance, along with Wildschut, gave Bolton a real attacking threat. Man of the match for me. Just three minutes into the second half, a beautiful through ball from Noone and a composed finish by Wildschut, was enough to give Bolton the points. Wildschut was a real handful on the other wing and I can see these two players being regular starters going forward. Football is all about taking your chances and whilst Wildschut buried his one on one past Mannone, Buckley fluffed a similar first half opportunity. I don’t know if Parky’s decision to hook Buckley for Wildschut at half time was tactical or due to an injury, but Wildschut was the more effective player in this game. His pace is something else as well. Noone went off nine minutes from the end and received a standing ovation from the Bolton fans. The fact Parky can replace Buckley and Noone with Wildschut and Ameobi shows that he has real options now on the wing.
- Captain fantastic. Despite having a beer named after him, Wheater hasn’t allowed it to go to his head. To this fan, Wheats is carrying on from last season and putting in some dominant defensive displays. When Reading piled on the pressure for the last 30 minutes of the first half and most of the second, Wheater ensured that Bolton coped with it not just admirably, but with ease. He also covered for the inevitable Beevers mistakes. When Beevers lost the ball to his man on the edge of the penalty area in the second half, I thought it was going to lead to a certain goal, but along came Wheater to get that last ditch foot in to save the day. Big Dave really has a second sight when it comes to being in the right place at the right time. Beevers did put in some great tackles but his distribution is still poor and he still defaults to that hoof up field. Surely it is only a matter of time before Wilson or Hobbs get their chance.
- The king is dead, long live the king. That man Magennis didn’t make it three goals in three but he was a threat up front on the rare opportunities he got the ball. The comparisons with Madine are many and you can see why Parky was keen to sign him. Additionally, Josh is a real power house, attempted foul play bounced off him and he isn’t someone who goes to the floor as easily as BGM did. Magennis played well but cut a frustrated figure during the long periods when Reading dominated the midfield play. Yes Parky has his BGM replacement, some six months later than needed, but Josh is here now. Come the winter months against better teams when Bolton need to grind out results, then Magennis looks the perfect man up top for those long upfield punts and holding up play until the midfielders arrive. With Donaldson as backup we have quality cover as well.
- And the coveted LOV special mention award goes to; Andrew Taylor. I came to this game expecting to see first hand what the rave reviews re Olkowski at right back were all about. He actually had an average game and his distribution was poor if I’m being honest. Little played better at Leeds. Anyhow, at left back a revelation was in progress. Taylor had Meite in his pocket to such an extent, that all the Reading attacking play was either through the middle or on their left wing. Taylor combined well with both Buckley and later Wildschut. He got forward when needed, his distribution, so often a weak point, was spot on. I actually only remember him making one misplaced pass and that was near the end of the game. If Taylor is having a Henry-esc end of career renaissance, then I for one applaud it. Preseason my view was that Taylor was a squad player at best and that Parky needed a younger player as the first team starter. After Saturdays performance, be under no doubt whatsoever that that thought needs to get in the sea. If Noone takes the MOTM award then Taylor is a close second in my opinion.
- Reasons to be concerned? Seven points from nine, two away wins, sitting in fifth place, a better balanced team with a little more quality makes for positive reading. However, one cause for concern was noticeable during the game. It was almost hidden by the shear ineptitude of Reading in being a scoring threat but it was there. It is that lack of pace and it has to be said, a lack of quality still in defensive midfield and central defence. All four players benefited from an outstanding gut bursting first half performance by Vela. But Vela could not be everywhere and faded in the second half. Swift, McNulty and to a lesser extent, Meyler dominated the midfield and with a better end product than the hapless Babcock, Reading would have gone on to score. I couldn’t believe it when Clement took all three of the aforementioned players off. He’s not going to last long as Reading manager that fella. Anyhow, up against better teams, Bolton’s Achilles heel is still through the middle. Don’t get me wrong, Lowe & as mentioned previously, Wheater, put in great performances. I also appreciate that Murphy is still some way off being match ready. But the fact is that the lack of pace and quality in this area will cost us in games going forward. So if Parky can get another midfielder in on loan, then it may make all the difference.