Keith Hill’s newly assembled squad put together an exciting and hardworking display and were unlucky to only come away with a point after a stoppage time Aidan McGeady penalty. But how did these players fare against promotion favourites Sunderland?
Remi Matthews - 8.5
180 minutes without conceding a goal will have done his confidence the world of good. Remi was unfortunate not to have collected his second clean sheet in less than a week after a 92nd minute penalty. Remi was called into action early after racing off his line, timing the collection of the ball from George Dobson’s feet very well. He then made a strong save at his near post to deny Chris Maguire. The second half brought on the expected attacking intent from Sunderland, the former Norwich stopper had to be on top form to deny McGeady and Gooch with two one-handed top corner saves. Narrowly missed out on the MOTM award.
Josh Emmanuel - 7
A strong performance from the former Ipswich man. Getting better every game, his partnership with Politic is improving and his defensive work is becoming as good as his attacking drive. I thought he dealt very well with the tricky and experienced Aidan McGeady, limiting his involvement in the game.
Jack Hobbs - 8
A goal and another solid defensive display from one of the old guard. His understanding and partnership with Jake Wright is developing nicely, he is also becoming more comfortable with the ball at his feet. I am a big fan of Hobbs ability to win aerial battles and Jake Wright’s sweeping up behind. I’m excited to see how this duo grow as a pairing - especially when Liam Edwards comes back into the fold to challenge their positions.
Jake Wright - 7
Also, seemingly frustrated that he was substituted by Hill. Whether this was due to a frustration with his injury or that he felt he could continue the game - time will tell - but nice to see that players want to be on the pitch wearing our white shirt.
Adam Chicksen - 6.5
Certainly hasn't been the “worst footballer ever” that Bradford fans said we had signed when he came in last week. I have been pleasantly surprised with Chicksen, although I found him to struggle at times to deal with Gooch and the overlapping O’Nien in the first half. All in all, a pretty solid performance.
Liam Bridcutt - 9
What a talent. What a leader. What a man. There is no way in high heaven that we’re going to be able to keep this fella after January. He is in a league of his own, not only does he ooze ability and professionalism, his work rate is second to none. “Leadership is about making others better in your presence.” This quote sums the Nottingham Forest loanee down to a tee. He, along with Lowe, controlled the midfield and kept Leadbitter, Dobson and Maguire quiet all game.
Jason Lowe - 8.5
‘J-Lowe’ or ‘PirLowe’ whatever you want him to go by. Both world class in their respective fields, the Bolton man fits right in with them. Okay, I may be getting carried away a little. I have been a huge advocate of Lowe an stuck by him throughout last season and during the summer. I cried out for that hard-working bulldog type midfielder to play alongside him to bring out the best in Lowey, and in Bridcutt that is exactly what we have. Lowe has thrived in the more advanced midfield role and I am loving it. He became synonymous with most fans last season for sidewards and backwards passing and a lack of creativity. We have seen a different player since Hill and Bridcutt have come in. Long may it continue.
Ali Crawford - 7
I like this lad. His vision is great, knows exactly what he wants to do before he receives the ball. Maybe not as effective as the Oxford performance due to coming up against two solid opposing midfielders in Leadbitter and Dobson. If my Football Manager save is anything to go by, this lad will be very important for us this season.
Dennis Politic - 8
Unbelievable talent. His raw skill and ability is something to behold. So unlucky to have not taken the lead with a sublime left-footed curling effort which cannoned off the post and rolled along the face of goal. His trickery and footwork caused Hume to get booked early on, the cause for his withdrawal at half time. But it wasn't his offensive work that impressed me so much against Sunderland, it was his defensive willingness to help out Emmanuel and the rest of his team. Keith Hill said midweek that if Politic and Verlinden inprove their defensive work then the world is their oyster. He can go right to the top. Please sign a new deal, Dennis.
Thibaud Verlinden - 8
Ball rolls for days. Convinced Keith Hill has some sort of FIFA-esque cheat code because how on earth have we managed to get this lad on loan. His ability with the ball at his feet gets everyone in the stands off theirs. His creativity is going to be a huge asset for us, especially when Murphy and O’Grady get fit. He was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet with a fierce left-footed drive at McLaughlin’s goal in the first half. Massively deserved his standing ovation. Let’s make the most of him till January, because I can't see him sticking around after that - he’s just too good.
Will Buckley - 8
WB7. I almost gave him a 7 to match his new squad number, but I honestly believe he deserved higher. I can't understand the criticism Buckley is still getting from a minority of Bolton fans. Playing as a makeshift striker, both games outnumbered facing up against two strong centre halves, I think Buckley has caused some problems playing on the shoulder off the defence. He was unlucky not to score against Oxford, and again against Sunderland after seeing a diving header go just wide despite being ruled out for offside. I would have loved to see his knock across goal nestle in the far corner, as I believe a goal will do his confidence the world of good. Alas, an assist and another 90 minutes under his belt is great to see. His work-rate in the second half was good, closing down the Sunderland defence to prevent them from playing out from the back. I hope that the rest of the Wanderers faithful get behind him and give him a fresh start playing in a new position under new management.
Onwards and upwards! The first win of the FV and Keith Hill era is coming soon.