Bolton Wanderers registered their first win since March, and if that seems like a long time ago it was. The outlook at the club back then was bleak but this first win of the season now shines through as a ray of hope for the future of this club.
Singing off the same hymn sheet
Now that the team has had a bit longer together, you can see that unison in the way they worked. Bristol Rovers raced issues advancing all across the pitch and Bolton’s second goal came after Rovers lost the ball twice in quick succession. Bolton have built a team containing decent players with a good work ethic and it gives the club every chance of digging themselves out of the relegation zone.
Josh Emmanuel looked in fine fettle for 90 minutes, dominating both defensively and going forward. His performance could’ve been topped off with what would’ve been a spectacular goal only for the ball to loop just over the crossbar. On that busy transfer day, Emmanuel did stand out amongst the crowd as a very good signing having gained Championship experience with Ipswich Town last season. He is shaping up to be one of the players of the season.
The defence in general looked incredibly, despite the new pairing of Yoan Zuma and Josh Earl, and Emmanuel was, for me, the standout within this. That is not to take anything away from the centre backs or Adam Chickson, who given the comments of Bradford City fans has been nothing short of a revelation.
Crawford all over the pitch
Ali Crawford showed his competitive side covering every inch of turf during the match. His energy for 90 minutes, along with that of his teammates, kept Bristol Rovers at bay for the most part.
He proved himself to be an important part of how Keith Hill wants to attack. His overall performance was highly encouraging behind the three strikers and once Dennis Politic and once Thibaud Verlinden are back in contention Bolton have a nice range of attacking options to choose from.
The one, fairly large, criticism of this performance is Crawford’s finishing. Crawford should have made it to two then three nil at a time when Bristol Rovers were in the ascendancy in the match. In the event, Luke Murphy managed to score the second goal to put against the bed, but before this it looked like Rovers might be starting to find their way back into the game. On another day we may have lived to regret his lack of proficiency in front of goal.
Remi must’ve been bored
Remi Matthews barely had a significant save some make during this match. He was called into action on a couple of occasions to pick up the ball but with the exception of those and a free kick which cannoned back off his crossbar there was little for the keeper to be concerned by. This was great to see against a team who have only just dropped out of the play-off places in the last week, and until this game were unbeaten at home.
The lack of activity which Remi had to deal with illustrated how well the defence was working, along with the midfield, to keep Bristol Rovers at bay.
Luke Murphy stood out in the midfield on the night. Not just as a result of his well taken goal but also as a result of his work ethic putting himself around the pitch and breaking up Bristol Rovers’ attacking play. The same can be said of Jason Lowe who put himself about well both on and off the ball. The two men have struggled to inspire the Bolton fan base for much of their time at the club, but they showed against Bristol Rovers that they can be a real asset to the team in this league.
Both players are around peak age and have the chance and ability to kick on for the rest the season and help Bolton fight for survival.