Remi Matthews - 7
Another competent performance from our now undisputed number one. Although Blackpool ultimately gave him very little to do in terms of actual saves, he offered a calm presence to the back four, in evidence particularly when he cleared a late corner with a commanding and almighty punch downfield. A number of wayward kicks blotted his copybook but when have we ever had a keeper who can kick consistently? Hell, even the legend that was Jussi Jaaskelainen couldn’t manage to kick accurately.
Anyway, aren’t we supposed to be ‘playing out from the back’ now, the most popular buzz phrase of football managers these days. So he shouldn’t ever need to kick it long again. There, problem solved.
On a serious note though, with every passing week that Ben Alnwick’s catalogue of mysterious injuries extends, Remi establishes himself as the main man between the posts and looking long-term and in a slightly depressing manner in a way; he is a young, English goalkeeper so is an eminently more saleable asset than Ben Alnwick. This is the way we will survive and thrive as a club moving forward, so I’m glad Remi has shedded my rather daft moniker of Remistake in recent weeks and long may it continue.
Josh Emmanuel - 6.5
I wasn’t perhaps as taken with Josh’s performance last night as many were on Twitter after the game, however he did contribute to a resolute performance overall by the back four. I did feel that he didn’t attack the ball well enough at times, defensively and offensively but he is certainly someone who is clearly improving in the main with each performance and he put some vital challenges in on ex-Wanderers winger, Blackpool ‘danger man’ and king of assists Liam Feeney as the game wore on. Would like to see a bit more confidence in himself as he has the attributes to be a great all-round full-back.
Yoan Zouma - 7.5
Another encouraging display from the young fans favourite, who took a while to get to grips with the awkward and gangly Armand Gnanduillet but eventually gained the measure of his more experienced opponent.
Showed some more encouraging signs in terms of bringing the ball out of defence and is surprisingly composed when doing so, usually finding a man with a low pass on the floor.
The series of towering headers to clear the ball away from the succession of corners in Blackpool’s spell of concerted pressure towards the end of the match will also do his confidence the world of good.
It seems that Hill’s comments after the Sunderland match have been well heeded and taken in the spirit that they were meant. Happily Zouma has stepped up his level since then and cut out the silly mistakes that plagued his game in the early part of the season. It may be tough for Jake Wright to displace him on his return from injury if this form continues.
Jack Hobbs - 8
A real Warriors performance from the unheralded and in my opinion underrated Hobbs, marshalling the defence and his young sidekick Zouma with an air of authority, making countless blocks and last-ditch challenges to keep Blackpool at bay.
If he can stay fit, he is as vital a component as any in this side, perhaps only bettered in importance by Liam Bridcutt, who we now know will not be seen in a Home Bargains shirt for the forseeable future. My joint man of the match along with the following chap...
Adam Chicksen - 8
What I like most about the former Bradford defender is he rarely seems to waste a pass and seems at ease with Keith Hill’s footballing philosophy. He is an intelligent footballer who cleverly makes angles for passes and to receive them from his teammates. He also defended robustly and quite subtly used the dark arts to his advantage; a few nudges here, a couple of niggles there to put off his man which was good to see, as for far too long we’ve been too nice as a team and individually. His attacking threat could be greater but his main foray forward led to him beating his marker and swinging in a low ball that Daryl Murphy connected with but was unfortunately blocked superbly. This suggest he should move forward to support attacks with more regularity.
With Josh Earl hopefully on his way back in the next month or so, this is at least a position that I’m very confident we will be fine with until the end of the season, barring any more effects from the Gypsy’s curse we seem to have been put under with injuries this season so far.
Liam Bridcutt - 7
Hard to give a proper rating here but his 35 minutes was a contrast of some outrageous skill, one midfield flick which has been well documented on Twitter today, some robust challenges but coupled with some misplaced passes that put us in danger. That he looks likely to have fractured his collarbone is a hugely damaging blow to our upcoming fortunes and let’s hope it’s not the last we see of him in a Bolton shirt. His authority and the air of superiority he exudes almost is an intangible asset to the team and while it can sometimes manifest itself in some sloppy and what looks like lazy passing, the positives that Bridcutt gives to this team far, far outweigh any possible negatives. Fingers crossed for a dose of good news after his scan.
Jason Lowe - 7.5
The ex-captain, now probably captain again in Bridcutt’s enforced absence, was excellent in the first half. His ball recovering, in particular one occasion when chasing his man down (yes, I can’t be bothered to check who it was in all honesty!) for a good twenty-yards to hook the ball away then hop quickly to his feet to start a counter attack, was a great sight to see. His influence began to wane in the second half but he did a job for the team in providing a good base for Sonny Graham to enjoy a less demanding role further forward in the midfield two and is certainly someone we can rely on going forward, despite his role in the strikes. He has certainly won over any potential dissenting voices since being rightfully restored to the team for Luke Murphy after the Rotherham debacle.
Thibaud Verlinden - 5.5
Apart from an encouraging beginning to the game and dismissing an over excited and exaggerated admin on the official club twitter account; he got very little change out of either Ollie Turton or James Husband. He quickly became a frustrated and petulant figure who was extremely fortunate not to be given a second yellow card for what was as blatant a shirt pull as you could see straight after admittedly looking like being fouled.
That the referee gave him a stay of execution after a chat with Jason Lowe smacked of him not wanting to send someone off in front of the Sky camera’s for what would have been two soft yellow’s in all honesty. If the letter of the law had been applied he would have left his teammates to battle the last 35 minutes or so with ten men however and this isn’t something that will please Hill. His performance was the most disappointing of the night but as long as he learns from this and comes out the other side in terms of his attitude and application then it will have been a lesson worth learning.
Dennis Politic - 6
Someone who I have very high hopes for endured the same fate as his wing partner in crime as Dennis failed to exert much of an influence on proceedings. Some moments of magic where he would use his bright footwork to get away from defenders would then in-turn be followed by poor decision making and ultimately losing the ball, putting us on the back foot. Like Verlinden, he’s a young and exciting prospect with bags of ability and games like this should only help to toughen his resolve, giving him invaluable lessons in how to beat a resolute and obdurate full-back. I’m confident Politic will return to form and rise again.
Ali Crawford - 7
It doesn’t take an awful lot in these now positive times to become a fan favourite and the Scotsman’s fantastic long range free-kick in the leasing.com trophy at Rochdale has set the pulses racing of the Bolton faithful. He so nearly lived up to that billing here, when curling a 30-yard free-kick inside Jak Alnwick’s near post, only to be denied.
His corners were on the whole well delivered with a whipped trajectory and always beat the first man, which is massively encouraging.
He does seem to drift out of the game at times though. Whether that’s another ‘match fitness’ issue or just a trait he’s always had in his career wherever he’s played is difficult to ascertain at this stage but Crawford is showing good signs of being a very useful League One performer.
It’s been a while since we had a good set-piece taker and even if he has shown this to be his most obvious and best attribute thus far, his busy and bustling style also endears himself to the crowd and gets them on their feet.
Could potentially be utilised further back, in front of Lowe perhaps, until Bridcutt returns.
Daryl Murphy - 6
A few deft flick-on’s aside his performance was a little underwhelming, understandable even as he begins the process of gelling with his new colleagues. He lost the physical battle against Ben Heneghan overall and despite working manfully, not much came off for the veteran on his first home appearance. His first half strike on the angle after being released by Verlinden was a decent opportunity to open his account and his blocked effort from Chicksen’s left side cross was unfortunate. I’m hopeful there is more to come from the Irish hitman but this wasn’t a night he’ll look back on with much fondness.
Sonny Graham - 7.5
Keith Hill is clearly a fan to trust in this young man to step up and replace such an important figure as Bridcutt in front of the Sky camera’s and he rewarded his manager’s faith with a tigerish display and some neat touches. He benefited from Jason Lowe’s steady influence behind him and no cause was a lost cause to him as he used all his energy reserves and left nothing on the pitch, something Hill would’ve been delighted to see given his cajoling statements pre-game.
It’s hard to know what his best position in the midfield might be yet but for someone of his age to perform like that was a great pointer to his attitude and aptitude to play at this level and a sign of some good times ahead for this combative and confident player.
Joe Dodoo - 7
Took a little while to get into the game when replacing Politic on 55 minutes but he eventually became a threat to the Blackpool defence and also defended well when needed. Often he was found helping out the tiring Emmanuel to stunt Feeney’s impact as we sought to defend our point in the dying embers of the match. His double chance could well have provided the fairytale start he would’ve dreamed of against his former club but he and Hill will have been satisfied with his appearance. Again, as with much of this side, things should and hopefully will only improve as he forges an understanding and creates bonds with his teammates moving forward.
Keith Hill - 8
Played the right side and made the right subs, although it was risky to hook Politic and leave Verlinden on when at the last chance saloon. It is perhaps understandable that he didn’t risk throwing on Ronan Darcy for Verlinden or even Murphy given the in-the-balance nature of the game but he may well have provided the spark we needed to have snatched an invaluable win for us.
Hard to be critical of him though and he got a rousing applause when he came over to our stand at the end of the match and rightly so. We have the right man in charge.