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MOTM: Bolton Wanderers 1-0 MK - Thibaud Verlinden

Our buccaneering Belgian is back with a bang!

Bolton Wanderers v Milton Keynes Dons - Sky Bet League One Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

Wanderers came away from a game where frustration ruled with an improbable injury-time winner.

Just moments after what had seemed like a terminal and match-defining penalty miss, the footballing gods finally smiled down upon us courtesy of the timely combination from the Murphy’s.

Up until that point it seemed like Murphy’s law would rule instead as the Whites were thwarted by Lee Nicholls in the MK Dons goal, albeit through mainly comfortable saves from a number of Luke Murphy efforts.

That substitute Bailey Cargill’s unnaturally raised arm gave referee Andrew Madley little choice but to hand us a gift-wrapped lifeline in the dying embers of the game came as a pleasant bolt out of the blue. Hope turned straight into despair however, as the veteran Irishman’s strike was easily parried down to his left by the MK stopper.

But like the Murphy’s, I’m not bitter, as Daryl atoned for his easy-to-save effort by stealing a march in front of his man-marker to convert his namesakes pull back, sending the UniBol faithful into long overdue rapture.

In my own humble opinion, that of which I am duty bound to give, only one man turned that game from a turgid, exasperating draw with a relegation rival in the midst of an horrendous run of form, into the type of scrappy win we will certainly need plenty more of throughout the course of this season if we are to pull off the greatest of all great escapes and stick the biggest of two-fingers up at the EFL.

I’m not entirely sure why I’ve given this the big build up, as my headline kinda gives it away with him being the only Belgian in the squad last time I checked.

My man of the match is on-loan Stoke City winger, Thibaud Verlinden.

One of his first actions was to clearly wind up his marker to the point that within only ten minutes of his arrival, George Williams’ annoyance with the Belgian led to him mindlessly striking out a hand into his face off the ball and left his teammates the unenviable task of holding out for a point for almost half an hour.

His absolute refusal to be deterred from getting down the wing, beating his man and delivering balls into the box time and time again despite some wayward crosses at times shows an elite mentality, one that reminded me of how Sir Alex Ferguson described Cristiano Ronaldo’s mental fortitude early in his career.

Not that I’m comparing the two players in any other way, you understand!

However, Verlinden never hides and constantly demands the ball. Yes, his end product isn’t always fantastic, yes his decision making can often frustrate and he often doesn’t look up for teammates in a better position but that awareness should come with more game time and maturity.

Let’s face it, if he had all those things in his locker already he wouldn’t be plying his trade at the UniBol, hell he wouldn’t even be registered to Stoke City, he’d be turning out for Pep’s City instead.

What he did do though was scare the Dons’ defenders rotten with his pace, trickery and close control and allowed others, most specifically Adam Chicksen once Verlinden moved over to the left flank, the time and space to make more telling contributions in the final half hour.

From my own perspective I thought only Josh Emmanuel played the whole match with the confidence in his own ability required to win matches like these.

Adam Chicksen’s second half was along those lines once Verlinden’s swashbuckling approach allowed him to play with more freedom.

Watching the highlights back it’s clear that Luke Murphy made a number of eye catching contributions during the match in terms of taking our only real shots on goal and obviously providing the strong byline run, the skill to keep the ball from going out of play and then finding the other Murphy with his precise pull back.

Such efforts perhaps elevate his fairly ordinary and often sloppy general play to a silver medal position for the MOTM award.

But today’s bottle of bubbly goes to the man who played less than 40 minutes but whose attacking intent and never-say-die elite mentality provided us with the impetus to turn a draw in this must-win encounter to the victory we craved and eventually deserved.

Thibaud Verlinden, we salute you!