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Five Things: Preston North End 2 - 2 Bolton Wanderers

Cometh the hour, cometh the Pav

West Bromwich Albion v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Bolton maintained their unbeaten away record with a hard earned point in a pulsating Lancashire derby at Deepdale. There was passion and commitment a plenty, as Bolton fought back from two goals down to take a share of the spoils. With sliding tackles, wonder strikes, a vociferous crowd and even a sending off at the death, what have we learnt from this weekend’s action, here’s my five things.

We’re fighting for every point this time around

That display epitomised everything we were lacking last season, I’m pretty sure last year we would have lost that game and gone down with a whimper. But this time around there is a real spirit and determination to do well for each other, the desire and belief to get back into the game was impressive. As a fan, all you can ask is that the players give 100% every time they go out on to the pitch and we are doing that this season and getting the rewards.

The team spirit is there and with the points on the board, our confidence is right up there too. We have added well over the summer, not only to have brought in players with that extra quality, but also players with more experience, players who set the bar in terms of level of commitment. So many times we hear this is a tough league and every point you earn is hard fought. We’re fighting hard and picking up points, long may it continue. A great, team performance.

Pawel Olkowski is fantastic

Boy oh boy this kid’s got talent. It’s a team effort and I get that but, as Chris said, providing he stays fit, this guy will be our player of the year hands down and we’re only 6 games in.

Not only does he keep every hair on his head in place while he heads the ball, he can smash in an equaliser off the underside of the bar, in a local derby and send 4,000 Bolton fans into delirium. What more can you ask of a right back.

He oozes class and his link up play with Sammy down the right is excellent. A star performer, I’ve yet to see him have an off day and he even managed to do the splits trying to block their first goal, (although not too gracefully). His English is coming on a treat too as he volleyed an expletive tirade at Preston’s Daniel Johnson after a late challenge in the second half. He’s a class above and makes you wonder why he was let go by FC Koln in the summer. Their loss is very much our gain, a man of the match performance from the Pole

Competition in midfield is white hot

Parky’s inclusion of Gary O’Neil in midfield was a master stroke. A player who is by far the most experienced, supporting the youngster and debutant, Joe Williams. Yes Gaz is 108 but his fitness levels are phenomenal and he never stopped running for the full 90 minutes, allowing Joe to push forward and press further up the pitch. The Everton loanne put in a combative display of his own, mixing it with the likes of Pearson and Gallagher in a very impressive debut. Birthday boy Jason Lowe completed the midfield maestros, shoring up the soft centre of last week despite the slow start, to give Wanderers a foot hold in the game.

With the recent arrival of Christian Doidge, Parky may opt for two up top on occasion, making competition for midfield places very interesting. Looking at the players who missed out, in particular Josh Vela, Erhun Oztumer and Luke Murphy, it shows what strength we have in depth and also highlights how competitive it is to get into the starting XI at the moment. For me, I think Jason Lowe is a shoe in for Parky but the other two ‘central’ midfield roles are highly contested, so time for everyone to up their game.

The stats tell the story

Worryingly, for the second game in succession, we started slowly and conceded two early goals, leaving ourselves with a mountain to climb just twenty minutes in. This is something that needs addressing and addressing quickly. To be fair, against Preston a sloppy pass and a sublime volley gave them a soft two goal head start but Preston also had other chances to extend their lead soon after.

Our pass success rate was just 66%, and too many times we gave the ball away cheaply or failed to find a man with the long ball up field, putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure.

On the other hand our possession is up, we won every tackle, we scored goals, we had more shots and more crosses than Preston, so there are encouraging signs, not least in the attacking third, but we need to cut out the mistakes that have led to us conceding 5 goals in two games if we want to stay in the top half.

Over 4,000 Bolton fans doing the club proud, once again, a great atmosphere throughout. Bored of the babies with the pyros though, spend your money on sweets instead.

Time for a break

As the international break approaches, looking back over the first six games it is clear that the quality of the squad has improved and we have a decent points tally on the board, so things are looking healthier. It’s a good start, just one defeat, some decent team performances and 11 points from 18, so we need to push on and keep the momentum.

Our next game is against Shhhteve McClaren’s QPR at home, and despite them adding to their squad with some premier league loanees, it’s a game that we must be looking to win.

We need to go again after the break, get over a couple of niggly injuries, start games better and keep the Bolton band wagon rolling on. 8th in the league and Parky a happy chappy - makes you wonder what all the panic was about over the Summer.

Up the bloody Super Whites.