March 30th 2019, Loftus Road, QPR 1-2 Bolton Wanderers. It was a game that meant very little overall in our relegation season, but it sticks out to me as the last time I came away from a Bolton game knowing the trip had been fully worthwhile. I have seen us play well since then, been proud since then and even felt sheer joy since then, but I haven’t seen us win since then.
October 22nd 2019, Memorial Stadium, Bristol Rovers 0-2 Bolton Wanderers. We’ve only gone and won a bloody game!
What a fantastic performance it was too, as you can see now in these player ratings. Spoiler alert, they all did rather well!
Remi Matthews 7
Remi did a ‘Remi’ in the first couple of minutes, typically following up a great diving save with a shocking decision to fly out of his box to semi-clear a loose ball. Tom Nichols picked it up, took aim, and narrowly missed the open goal presented to him when he really should have scored. Other than that, he was very sturdy, marshalling his box well and showing a calmness underneath crosses that helped his inexperienced centre-halves.
Josh Emmanuel 9
He’s had a fair amount of criticism for some of his performances, but I have said before I think he will be one of our best signings this season and it’s performances like this that will prove me right. He was magnificent. Emmanuel defended very strongly, using his pace and his presence well to bully attackers whilst also attacking with calmness on the ball and showing real purpose. It was a joy to watch and I can’t wait to see him go from strength to strength.
Yoan Zouma 8
Very good from the fan’s favourite after a shaky-ish performance against Rochdale. He kept it simple with his passing and won almost everything in the air. He has his rash moments and he really does need to cut them out but he more than earned his clean sheet by doing the basics well. Confidence is key for this lad and let’s hope he can show more consistency after this.
Josh Earl 7
Back after his Wanderers career was halted early at Wycombe and looked a little shaky to start with, often misjudging headers and clearances in the first half. However, he wasn’t tested as much as perhaps he might have been had Jonson Clarke-Harris been available and played himself into the game well to the point that he was very comfortable come the final whistle. More to come from this young defender I am sure.
Adam Chicksen 7.5
Mr Consistent was just that yet again. After a poor piece of defending to allow Rovers’ only big chance in the opening minutes he was pretty much infallible defensively and it is very calming to see him on the ball, knocking it around with ease and linking defence and attack well. With Earl back in the team he finally has some competition but doesn’t look like losing his place anytime soon.
Jason Lowe 8
He is playing below his level I think and it is great to see him finally showing some confidence. He’s not got the swashbuckling style of Liam Bridcutt but his industry and determination make him a real asset in our midfield. I think he perfectly suits Keith Hill’s style of play and has added some attacking intent to his game, testing Anssi Jaakola in the Bristol goal with a couple of fierce drives. When Lowe scores, we’re on the pitch!
Luke Murphy 8
This might be the first time I’m going to write about Luke Murphy without criticising him. He is a player who has had a really solid career at both this and Championship level but has been seriously poor for Bolton since joining from Leeds. However, celebrating his 30th birthday in style, Murphy bagged his first goal for the club and put in a great performance in both attack and defence. I am hopeful this is the turning point for Murphy.
Ali Crawford 7.5
Oh Ali, you should have had a hattrick tonight. After hitting the post in the first half he somehow managed to miss an open goal after Daryl Murphy’s long-range shot was parried to him, though thankfully the Irishman spared his blushes soon after. Crawford is a busy player who helps link attacks nicely, but he will be disappointed he didn’t manage to score in this game. Something to improve on after a good all-round showing.
Joe Dodoo 7
Dodoo started the game really brightly, tested Tony Craig down our right-flank constantly and making a real nuisance of himself. He has lovely feet and nice turn of pace but he faded dramatically in the second period, probably demonstrating his lack of match fitness. He has a lot to offer but needs to get fully up to speed before we see the best of him.
Chris O’Grady 7.5
The big striker’s first outing for the Whites proved a successful one despite him playing a slightly unfamiliar position on the left flank (though we all know you really like to drift out-wide don’t you, Chris?). He held the ball up well and proved a useful target for more direct balls played out of defence, using all his experience to win corners and free-kicks to frustrate Bristol. A good start which shows he still has his uses despite his advancing years.
Daryl Murphy 8.5
The big Irishman finally came to the party in a Wanderers shirt in this game, scoring his first goal for the club with a great finish after showing a little burst of pace to get in behind. Murphy won everything in the air and recovered from a shaky start to dominate the Bristol defence. It was great to see him get off the mark and hopefully, now he’s up to speed, we will see him hit the net again and again.