A tough away game against a well run and settled Posh team, that has had time to build for a promotion run, was always going to be asking a lot of Bolton’s waifs and strays. When we factor in two key players just returning from injury coupled with an unfamiliar team formation, this game was a big challenge.
The players immediately looked more comfortable when the switch to 4-4-2 was made upon the introduction of Verlinden & O’Grady 56 minutes in. Throughout the game, the effort our players put in cannot be criticised but that lack of consistency, lineup familiarity and quality was always evident. The cause of those issues though is mostly down to the limited options available to Hill from his embargoed and injury ravaged squad.
As this is a MOTM article though, let’s reflect on those players that did well.
I thought Earl looked comfortable in a back three. It wasn’t his fault nor could he do much about a Posh side playing merry hell whilst swamping a forlorn Chicksen down the left wing. A minor negative was his part in our inability to get rid of the loose ball in one of at least four penalty box scrambles in the first half. But his defensive heading was good against a barrage of Peterborough first half crosses and on a couple of occasions he brought the ball out well to set off Bolton counterattacks. For such a big lad he’s quite good with his feet as well. Definitely a prospect, just a shame he’s Prestons prospect.
Emmanuel got better as the game went on but was no doubt a relieved man when switched back to his more familiar right back position. He is obviously a quality player but he isn’t a wing back. If it wasn’t for the sterling work of Dodoo further up the field then Emmanuel could have had the day Chicksen was having. He was at fault for the Peterborough goal giving the hugely impressive Toney a free header. But Josh is a very good full back and hopefully he is left in that role. Overall he played well and his link up play with Dodoo was excellent.
Luke Murphy was another player who grew in confidence and influence as the game progressed. So much so that in the second half he was one of our better players. If he’d buried that free header instead of wasting a golden opportunity he’d very much be a contender for man of the match.
Up front, the only player of note for me was Joseph Dodoo. I can’t say that I was exactly overjoyed when we finally signed Dodoo as one of the two non contracted squad fillers post the summer transfer window. I’d heard that he’d done okay as a converted winger but I’m please to say that my first proper watch of him on Saturday was full of positives. The sky sports app had him starting as an attacking midfielder behind Darcy and Daryl Murphy. However, it seemed to me that he started as one of the front two. Throughout most of a disjointed Bolton first half, Dodoo seemed to be pulled back out onto the right wing to both work with and in many cases, help out a somewhat isolated Emmanuel. Personally, I’d like to see what Dodoo can do at the top of a 442 alongside Murphy but in yesterday’s game, Dodoo was effective full time on the wing, once the substitutes were made that is. His ability to cut in and go at defenders with the ball at his feet was good to see. Maybe a tad lacking in confidence early on but a good player nonetheless.
Regardless of the above, for me, there was only one winner and that was of course Bridcutt. Having got over the surprise of seeing him start at the top of a three man central defensive unit, it quickly became apparent as to the reason why Hill had put him there. Firstly, having our captain marshalling two relatively inexperienced defenders playing a newish system in a game against strong opponents was obviously a plus. But where Bridcutt really earned his money was in his adaptability whilst showing Championship level quality in spades. In defence, when Bolton weren’t caught on the break that is, he played almost as a standard defensive midfielder sweeping in front of a back four. When we were caught on the break, which seemed like every 5 minutes as the first half progressed, I lost count of the times Bridcutt darted in to get a tackle on the inbound Posh player.
Not a lot he could do when Peterborough stuck to the wing and he was heavily involved in the panicked goalmouth scrambles but overall, along with a bit of luck, Bridcutt was the reason they didn’t go for their halftime orange four goals down. I’ve seen many comments that he is too small to play as centre back. I’d argue that when you have two tall centre backs either side, quality on the ball is more important than height.
Perhaps the biggest surprise though was his ability to put in a long pass. I thanked the gods that Zat Knightesque it was not. I honestly thought he’d fluked the first one but the following two showed he was pinging the balls round like a league one Campo.
Even when we went to a flat back four, Bridcutt held his own.
One final mention was his ability to get under the skin and unsettle a very handy Peterborough midfield, particularly as Bolton became the more dominant team in the second half. I’m sure a certain Karl Henry would be tipping his hat had he seen this performance.
Great player and if we can get him back in January alongside Verlinden plus three other quality loans, then I for one won’t be complaining.