A Brum team, containing a midfield that was a good level above Bolton’s in quality, unsurprisingly dominated this game. However, in a deja vu nod to the previous game against Reading, the blues had a toothless attack who could not make hay whilst the sun shone. Bolton meanwhile relied on an absolutely solid back 4 and a goalie who generally dominated his box whilst making another world class save. Our distribution and passing was on the whole dreadful, isolating powerhouse Magennis for long periods. But we won. Hats off to Parky though, thanks to his timely choice of subs. Both Ameobi and Buckley added enough quality to enable Bolton to step up a gear and get a goal. An undeserved win but, again, who cares. We’ve all watched plenty of games where we have deserved something but ended up empty handed. I have no real idea how we have 10 points from 4 games and are sitting joint top. But do I care? Not really, because if you can’t enjoy this run then you’re in for a depressing season. We are up at the top so love the moment. I know I am. Anyhow, to the ratings. How do you mark a team that was second best but won? No idea but here goes.
Ben Alnwick 6.5; Spectacular first half save aside, Ben was assured behind a Fort Knox defence. A couple of minor fumbles understandable, considering the long periods Bolton were under pressure against a big Brum team. Ben had a solid game. However, slightly marked down as his distribution was mostly punts up field to isolated players that effectively just gave the ball back to the opposition. He even sent a couple to the diminutive Oztumer which Birmingham just lapped up.
Pawel Olkowski 7; Assured display where his strength, quality and assuredness on the ball shone through. Had a huge battle against the impressive Maghoma, but eventually won as the latter players 81 minute substitution showed. His distribution was better than against Reading as well.
David Wheater 7; As ever, big Wheats was in the right place at the right. Made those familiar last ditch tackles and generally just utterly solid in defence. Gave away a silly free kick on the edge of the box in the first half, but it would be churlish to reflect that in his score. Another superb captains performance.
Mark Beevers 6.5; Another one who was immense in defence. Consistently put in great tackles, blocks, headers, you name it. Slight mark down due to Beevers continual lack of composure when clearing the ball. Not the only one by any stretch but one of the worst offenders.
Andrew Taylor 7; Another impressive display from our rejuvenated left back. Put in the cross to Ameobi that led to our wing wizard setting up the goal. We really do have a back four that are so difficult to beat at the moment. The main reason we are flying high in my opinion.
Jason Lowe 6; A below par game by his standards. Always goes quietly about his business and is an ideal defensive midfielder for Bolton. He’s just missing that quality partner to make best use of the clean up work he does. Struggled in this match against a quality Birmingham midfield. Had one good chance to score but it came to nothing.
Gary O’Neil 6.5; put in an absolutely gut busting performance that belied his 35 years and he gets a mark up for that. Otherwise though, he spent most of the game as overwhelmed as his midfield partners.
Erhun Oztumer 6; his quality on the ball and attacking play, when given the chance, was evident. However, much like his midfield partners, Oz was outplayed and in his case, outmuscled by Birmingham. Found an outlet for his talent when Ameobi and Buckley came on. Quite funny that he forgot his shirt number, so tried to come off when the first subs were announced, high tenning Parky, only for Parky to then turn him around and tell him to get back on again.
Craig Noone 6; Unable to maintain his hot streak. Tried hard but generally a frustrating game for Craig with little going his way and unable to link up with Pawel on the rare occasions we had the ball. Did his bit manning the fort when Bolton were under the cosh though, with some great defensive play.
Yanic Wildschut 6; Did more than enough at Reading to earn a start against Birmingham. Unfortunately, Yanic didn’t grasp the opportunity. His fast pace just seemed to take him very quickly to dead ends and his final ball was poor. As with Noone, he defended well when called upon but was ineffective going forward. The £6m winger was second best to his opposite Jota, who was having a fantastic game.
Josh Magennis 6; Played Billy no mates up top for long periods. Tried his best with Alnwicks up field punts but with no support, it was a lost cause. One thing that Magennis did really well was helping out in defence during the Brum corners and free kicks. Our third central defender at times, a job he did superbly well. His effort was rewarded when he got the last touch from the Ameobi cross, making it three goals in four games.
Sammy Ameobi (62 for Noone) 7.5; Gave the whole team a nitro injection when he came on. His ability to run with a ball at pace totally unsettled Birmingham and encouraged his team mates to have a real go at attacking. A pinpoint cross from Sammy found Taylor in space, who then ran up the wing to return the favour. Ameobi’s follow up ball into the box was scrambled across the line by a Buckley/Magennis combo and Bolton where somehow ahead. Safe to say that whilst the defence stopped us losing, Sammy’s appearance enabled that win. He was absolutely superb, a real game changer.
Will Buckley (62 for Wildschut) 7; Played some great football perhaps unnoticed due to Ameobi’s wizardry. A shame if so, because Will had a good half hour both in attack and for the last 10 minutes backs to the wall defending. A performance that was a level above his previous one at Reading.
Clayton Donaldson (85 for Oztumer); came on too late for a mark but added some steel to a team that was defending a lead. A great player to use as an impact sub.