Who saw that coming? Certainly not the bookmakers and the majority of fans predicting the result. I mean, wow, what an absolutely inspiring opener. If this kind of result and performance doesn’t give the entire fanbase some belief that Bolton can do better than another relegation scrap this season, then I don’t know what to tell you. They had a game plan that they stuck to and it payed off tremendously with every player having some form of contribution to that win. Who were the biggest and best players though?
Here are the ratings:
Ben Alnwick - 7.5
Could do absolutely nothing about Harvey Barnes’ spectacular curving strike which is an unfortunate blot on what was a terrific start for our only senior keeper (no Williams doesn’t count). Rarely troubled as West Brom struggled to shoot on target but when needed he produced. A terrific reflex save from Hegazi’s header kept Bolton in the game at a nervy point in the match. Wish he’d still throw the ball out quicker for counter-attacks but that’s nitpicking. Solid.
Pawel Olkowski - 8.5
How did Koln not play this man last season? His attacking prowess and link up play with Ameobi and Noone was phenomenal and he rarely let Matt Phillips get past him all match. Unafraid of getting himself in the action, he also made some lovely tackles and displayed an abundance of energy to get back if we were under threat. If he keeps up this kind of performance consistently, good lord do we have a terrific player on our hands.
David Wheater - 8.0
Wheater’s first match as permanent club captain and he did a wonderful job. Winning a large amount of headers and remaining calm and collected in possession, Wheats looked like his old dominating self from League One. Very unfortunate not to cap it off with a goal as a header went agonisingly wide but he did his job and did it well.
Mark Beevers - 8.0
I might as well just copy and paste Wheater’s rating explanation as Beevers was just as good as his beloved counterpart. Dominant in the air, calm in possession and battling for the ball like the brick wall he is, hopefully this is the start of Wheevers being back to their best. One notable mention is the tremendous last-minute block when a West Brom looked to have the ball deflected for him to have a shot but Beevers stretched his body as much as he could to stop it. Wonderful stuff.
Andy Taylor - 8.0
For a man who has been somewhat unfairly scapegoated by Bolton fans after some poor performances last season, Andy proved his mettle and a lot of Bolton fans wrong with a terrific performance. Looking to keep his place once competition for his place comes in, Taylor did his chances no harm, doing a great job stifling Barnes for the most part and covering Beevers and Wheaters when West Brom looked to counter-attack.
Luke Murphy - 7.0
Decent start for Murphy. Linking up in the middle well with Vela and Lowe, Murphy didn’t do anything spectacular but found the passes he needed to, kept his position well and didn’t look afraid to do some dirty work when the need arised. Maybe not yet fully match fit, as evidenced by being taken off for Gray O’Neil on the hour mark but that’s just speculation on my part. Overall, Murphy was solid.
Jason Lowe - 8.5
I’ve started to come around from my initial concern about having Lowe be our defensive midfield core at the start of the season. I genuinely don’t remember him putting a foot wrong all game. He made some wonderfully decisive tackles, kept running all game into positions so players could pass to him and kept things nice and controlled in midfield. He looks incredibly calm with the ball and I pray he doesn’t get injured as he could our unsung hero of the season if he keeps this up.
Sammy Ameobi - 7.5
I hope the hip injury he’s suffered isn’t serious because Sammy had a really good game. He looks fitter than last season, evidenced by his willingness to cover for Olkowski in defence when the Pole advanced up the field. Not to mention his cross for the first goal was very well placed. He certainly had Gibbs troubled while he was on the field and didn’t give up the ball as readily as he might have done at points last season. I pray he keeps this up as his inconsistency last season was incredibly frustrating.
Josh Vela - 7.0
Better from Josh than we saw last season. Being deployed as more of a free-roaming midfield than the attacking mid we saw last season, Vela was allowed more freedom to get across the pitch to get the ball and try to make things happen. He really benefited from having more licence to play and dribble with the ball instead of having to do more grunt work. Still feeling his way into form and the new position at the moment, the more he plays, the better he should become. Good start to an important season for Josh.
Will Buckley - 6.5
My one blot on what a great day. I give Buckley credit for stepping up his defensive duties, as at points last season, he seemed completely uninterested in tracking back. He did help support Taylor when West Brom were trying to get into spaces to attack. However, he also struggled to make use of his space on the wing and wasted opportunities in possession to either cross or beat his man when going forward. He was also partly responsible for conceding by lamely following Barnes before the young man let rip. Needs to do better if he wants to keep his place.
Josh Magennis - 8.0
Did a brilliant job marshalling the West Brom defence and battled for the entire game. Thoroughly deserved the goal and placed his header well. It wasn’t just his upper body on show though as he was also fairly tidy with his feet in the few opportunities he had to show off with them. Minor nitpicks would be that a lot of his headers didn’t find black shirts and he did look to tire towards the end of the game, maybe showing he’s not fully up to scratch yet but I’m reaching. Tremendous debut.
Craig Noone - 6.5
Not as effective as Ameobi and the less said about his free-kick, the better. However, also did a great job helping Olkowski with defending and did make some good attacking runs and dribbles to get past Gibbs. Slightly sloppy with his set-up play though but hopefully can make up for it if Ameobi is to miss out on Saturday.
Gary O’Neil - 7.5
Whether his introduction was tactical or through necessity, Gary O’Neil proved to everyone why he earned his short-term deal. Getting about the pitch like he’s back in 2008, Gary chased down for every ball and created some wonderful attacking play in the moments Bolton did have possession. Using his experience to great effect, Gary ran the midfield when he came on. Looks to be an impactful option off the bench.
Yanic Wildschut - 7.5
Didn’t have too much time on the pitch but for his short spell, Yanic Wildschut had a large impact. Before the goal, Yanic was getting stuck in, helping Taylor fend off the West Brom right-hand side and helped gain Bolton a lot of traction by using his pace to force everyone up into West Brom’s half. Then the goal. Using his body to lean into his marker, he got himself enough of a power to place it into the corner past Johnstone, demonstrating his goalscoring instincts. If this is what we can expect from Yanic, I’m pleased we snatched him from under Wigan’s noses.