Bolton Wanderers put in a fantastic performance to nearly take their first win of the season. Jack Hobbs latched on to a Will Buckley header to put Bolton 1-0 up early in the first half. Wanderers played well throughout and looked to have done enough to win the game before a late penalty was converted.
What can we take from this game?
Disciplined Dennis Politic
Politic put in a brilliant performance for Bolton in my opinion. Not only was he part of some very slick attacking play but he was also effective off the ball.
His tracking back put clear pressure on Sunderland players and he did a good job at various points of protecting his full back. At one stage he dropped into the right back position when Josh Emmanuel had pushed further forward.
Keith Hill mentioned in a recent interview that it is important that wingers put in a defensive shift too, and Politic showed an appetite for this.
Mind the gap
In the first half there was a couple of occasions when Sunderland found themselves in acres of space between the defence and the midfield. This is something which I think is criminal. It allows the attacking team the opportunity to set up a shot if not closed down or to line up a threw ball if they are. When the defenders push out to close the attacker down, it inevitably creates space to attack behind.
Sunderland were not able to do anything with these openings, but another team may well catch us out.
Liam Bridcutt was absolutely everywhere for 90 minutes. He led the line in ensuring that Sunderland had little to no time on the ball and forcing them back into their own half.
When on the ball as well he looked impressive. It is always wonderful to see a player who seems to have more time on the ball than he has any right to. Bridcutt looked composed in the most part when in possession.
From time to time he could be accused of trying too hard with big cross field passes which either need to get better or be cut out.
Bolton did a good job of closing down as a team and snuffing out Sunderland’s options going forward. The number of times they were forced right back into their own half was wonderful to see.
None of the teams in this league look all that good. If put under pressure they will make mistakes. Sunderland showed that today when Bolton were able to break up play and bring the ball forward.
With a bit longer working with Hill I would expect Bolton to get better at breaking quickly after dispossessing the opposition.
A footballing identity
It was clear to see from the outset that Hill’s philosophy is beginning to imbed itself with the players. There are missing ingredients, most glaringly a centre forward to compete for all those crosses.
When watching the Tin Pot Cup match against Bradford City I said that is probably the best I have ever seen a Bolton team play, particularly in the first half. This performance was not on that level, but you could see the green shoots breaking through of a slicker brand of football than we have been used too over the last few years.
Hopefully the revolution on the pitch will continue at pace, and the first win of the season is not too far away!