Bolton once again displayed their schizophrenic nature by putting in a somewhat dominant display one half and being absolutely lifeless the next. If were a revel, this performance would be the raisin. A lovely coating of chocolate on the first bite which is then ruined by something dry and horrible to look at the further you get into it. We are once again the masters of our own failings and we need to learn what will help us improve fast, lest we find ourselves further adrift from the promotion pack.
Here are the 5 Things I can take away from Grimsby:
Our first clean sheet
Let’s start of positive and give credit to our back 3. While yesterday was a simpler day at the office for the Bolton defence, they still had some nervy moments that they had to deal with and they did so quite confidently mostly. Santos undoubtedly had his best defensive display for the club, putting in some strong challenges and winning pretty much everything aerially. Ditto for Delaney. While he may not have the drive forward to play as the attacking LCB that Evatt may want, he’s extremely reliable at the back and cuts a calm figure in defence. Then there’s Harry Brockbank. Before Baptiste’s introduction, which we’ll get to later, he looked assured and the best option to play out the ball from the back while showing some strength not previously seen in battling opposition for possession. He’s really coming on this season as a defender and long may it continue. These 3 lads look to solidifying their starting spots in my eyes. Special credit to Santos for making that happen after his haplessness earlier in the season. He’s been leaps and bounds better than he was before.
Andy Tutte the Duracell Bunny
The title says it all really. Tutte put himself all over show and his presence makes the world of difference to our midfield. He’s showing Tom White and especially Brandon Comley what is expected of a CM in Evatt’s formation. It’s not just the fact that he gets about a lot and puts his all into everything he does but it’s the fact that he always tries to play positive while doing it. If he finds himself in with any space, he’ll run into it and look forward to play the ball. He doesn’t waste any motion and always runs into pockets to collect the ball. He always looks to be available and when he’s fully up to speed and able to do 90 minutes of that, he’ll be pivotal to our success.
0 SHOTS ON TARGET
We’ve all heard the positives and there are still bits to come but we can’t ignore the giant elephant in the game. Neither side had a single shot on target. Outside of goal kicks and easy catches, neither keeper was tested. I’m with that from our opposition obviously but from us, that’s totally unacceptable. The closest we came was from Crawford’s free-kick and if we’re relying on a one-off chance like that to be our goal grabber, then there’s some fundamentally wrong here.
You can chalk up a stat like that in the first half to some bad luck, which there was with a Crawford chance being blocked when it absolutely would’ve gone sailing in if it wasn’t. Fine. That happens. To not capitalise though on all that good attacking momentum though and essentially grind to halt when around the penalty box is disgraceful. The amount of times we dilly-dallied instead of just popping an effort off when we could have was infuriating. We pretty much did the old Wenger crime of being guilty of over-playing for a beautifully worked goal every time. Sometimes you just have to try your luck and we didn’t test that. We were wasteful.
The Doyle Dilemma
We all know for a fact that we signed Doyle to be our main goal scoring threat for the season. So why do we insist of giving him scraps to feed off? Well that’s certainly up for debate as sometimes, Doyle himself is responsible for that being the case. I can totally understand his frustration when it feels like nothing is coming off that you have to drift into positions that take you away from where you should just try and get some kind of foothold in the game. However, moves like that drag him away from being where he is most effective which is in between defenders, running for openings to get into goal-scoring areas. He more often than not ends up wide where his game is stifled as he honestly just isn’t that effective with the ball for long periods of play. It costs us that incision up front.
At the same time however, he undoubtedly is starved of service sometimes. As solid as Hickman and Mascoll were as wing backs yesterday, their crosses more often than not benefit a Delfouneso who is stronger in the air. When it comes to Crawford, the 2 seem on the same page one minute and then on different wavelengths the next. Much like Crawford himself this season, there’s no consistency yet between them and it’s infuriating as on paper, the 2 should link up like Magnet and Steel. Speaking of linking, that leads me to Delfouneso. For all his good industrious qualities, he’s a terrible striker to play alongside. Fonz often finds himself way too deep and while he can certainly dribble well enough, he regularly starts from too far down for it too be seriously challenging for the opposition. The attacking balance needs to be struck and it needs to be soon if we are to get what Swindon got from Doyle.
The tough calls in Substitutions
This is a tough one as I can completely understand Evatt’s mindset when it comes to the substitution’s he made. Tutte and Mascoll didn’t have the same pre-seasons as the others and are possibly still playing catch-up in terms of full fitness. Would they have survived the full 90 unscathed? It’s hard to say. Then there’s Hickman who we can’t afford to lose while Jones is until at least the end of November. Plus he played a full 90 on Tuesday. Could he have done it again unscathed? Again, hard to say.
What’s not hard to say is that the players he brought on negatively impacted the game. It was clear to all that Crawford and Delfouneso were no longer having any offensive impact on the game. I would have personally changed them myself but let’s say Evatt had to take off the 3 we mentioned what could he have done differently? Well for starters, you could have adapted the formation to hammer Grimsby’s defence. Go to 4 at the back and bring on the aforementioned Darcy and Gnahoua for Tutte and Hickman and keep Mascoll for Gordon. If he wanted to keep the shape however, Greenidge at LCB would’ve made more sense than Baptiste, having played more recently. You could shift Santos across to RCB for the final stretch to make use of his ball playing abilities while keeping Delaney’s defensive prowess centrally. Darcy, for what he’d lack in strength compared to Tutte, he’d make up for in energy and intent in that midfield. Comley had the strength but the intent wasn’t there. He’s not someone you bring on when you need a goal. Even Riley would’ve been better as his inexperience would’ve been made up for with sheer desire to impress. He made the wrong calls in who to bring on and we suffered for it. Did he make the wrong calls on who to bring off though, that’s up for debate.