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Five Things: Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Bradford City

A win!!! A home win!! A bloody hard slog after showing our quality in the first half but a win!!

Bolton Wanderers v Bradford City - Sky Bet League Two Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

A win!!! A home win!! A bloody hard slog after showing our quality in the first half but a win!!

Okay, enough of the faux hyperbole and on with the talking points...

Billy big bollocks

All joking aside, I’m glad that firstly our manager felt it pertinent to apologise for his choice of language when criticising our on-loan keeper after his mistake at the Abbey Stadium and secondly that Billy, at least in the measurement of cold hard facts in saving a penalty and keeping a clean sheet, reacted as well as can be expected to his managers entirely unnecessary public humiliation.

I come at this having a foot in both camps metaphorically speaking, having suffered from mental health issues myself and also being a bit more old school in my general thinking regarding the ‘snowflake’ society we now inhabit.

It’s been spoken about time and time again these past 3/4 days and all I want to say is that Ian Evatt’s comments were avoidable and unhelpful, not only that they were unnecessarily aired in the public domain but in that they certainly had a bit of a sinister tone to them. Even if we weren’t living in a world where each interview is scrutinised beyond comprehension, compared to ten or even five years ago, his comments lacked class and empathy for a young man in the firing line who needs extra training, not both barrels from his boss and the public discussion that carried on unabated once media outlets had gotten hold of his quotes.

I’m happy Billy has exorcised the ghosts of that performance and the ensuing unsavoury comments. But let’s not kid ourselves that there isn’t a hell of a lot to work on with his game, especially the command of his area and the way he deals with aerial balls.

This aspect of his repertoire needs an awful lot of training to become anything close to competent but we have to remind ourselves most twenty year-olds have far from a perfect game and keepers especially have to learn on the job in an unforgiving environment and even more so for Crellin, with his elevation from Fleetwood Town reserve to Wanderers first team regular coming in the space of a matter of weeks.

Let’s hope the kid can build on this morale boosting and game-winning contribution and turns into the keeper he, the fans and Evatt want him to be for us.

Let’s also hope that Evatt now understands the scrutiny that comes with his words and that he is more likely to temper his reaction to events and his vocabulary in future to avoid the kind of unhelpful fanfare that’s surrounded him these last few days.

The case for the defence

I think the way we had to dig in and really fight for the three points will do us the world of good. In my opinion the back three were immense overall as it was in the wide areas that we suffered most with the impressive Leeds loanee Bryce Hosannah’s pace, low centre of gravity and ball control causing us the most problems as the game wore on.

Alex Baptiste played with a confidence that has been lacking thus far and belied his advancing years by even acting as an extra attacking outlet in the first half.

It was especially satisfying to see that he and Ricardo Santos were quick to admonish Jamie Mascoll, whose cameo wasn’t the greatest, for his lackadaisical defending, when allowing Bantams centre back Anthony O’Connor to cut inside him and whistle an effort just past the post as the game entered its final throes.

Santos was imperious for the most part as we have now gotten quite used to seeing since his move to the centre of our back three. He showed nous and strength to win his individual battles with his opponent, although he was luckily up against Clayton Donaldson rather than the missing and more threatening Lee Novak.

Ryan Delaney ran Antoni Sarcevic close for man of the match in my opinion and his anticipation and dedication in anticipating Crellin’s inability to get to the high ball ahead of Donaldson and clearing it off the line with a minimum of fuss epitomised his commanding performance.

This particular example of his no-nonsense, win-at-all-costs defending exhibited the need for a player of his ilk and character in this formation and in our side.

They seem like they are developing into a proper unit now and the onslaught that they endured and with a large slice of luck survived, bodes really well for this long hard season of football that lays ahead of us.

The lack of an out-ball as Arthur Gnahoua visibly tired and our midfielders began to become overran by their unopposed centre-halves stepping into midfield, meant the three and Crellin were heavily overworked. They will have breathed a huge and well deserved sigh of relief when the referee finally blew his whistle, one that also signalled a cathartic belly-roar from Evatt and his backroom staff.

Captain fantastic

Antoni Sarcevic has really stepped up in the last few games and his overall display in this game, having not seen the full game at Cambridge in what I’ve heard was also a very impressive performance from the Manchester-born midfielder, gave me huge optimism that whatever seemed to be holding him back in the opening month or so of the season is well and truly behind him.

He was everywhere in a dominant midfield in the first half and his decisiveness in and out of possession was really clear to see as he strode about the pitch with a purpose and clarity of thought that really excited me.

We were watching the player that we all waxed lyrical over when he signed and despite fading slightly alongside the whole team as we retreated into our shell for the Alamo in the last twenty minutes, he still led by example until the end in chasing and harrying the opposition.

Our captain will be pivotal for us moving forward as we attempt to climb the table in the coming weeks.

Options up top

We need more. And quick.

While Nathan Delfouneso did well for his goal and is a seriously silky footballer at times, he always looks more likely to score when he’s less time to think about it for me.

Arthur Gnahoua did very well for an hour with his directness, pace and willingness to take players on proving a useful outlet but both faded to the point where Bradford’s centre-halves abandoned their positions obviously unworried that we would take advantage of any gaps. Fonz looked to carry an injury into half-time, although happily it didn’t look to hamper him too much but as Gnahoua had clearly ran his race by around the 65th minute mark, it became too much of an ask for the ex-Blackpool and Blackburn man to offer himself as the only viable out-ball and the waves of attacks kept on coming as the ball failed to stick when we did manage to clear our lines successfully.

With Shaun Miller, Muhammadu Faal and youth team prospect Bright Amoateng all back in training either now or soon, hopefully we will be able to switch things up and give our attack some fresh impetus as we head into the latter stages of games. This is even more important to our hopes after the news that Eoin Doyle is likely to miss the whole of November with the hamstring injury he suffered at Cambridge.

Midfield harmony

The most pleasing aspect of the first half performance was the interplay between Sarcevic, deep lying midfielder Andrew Tutte and Ali Crawford. They seem to know where each other is on the pitch now almost without looking and their relationship between one another and as a three is clearly building nicely.

Crawford never stopped pressing all game and got into some wonderful shooting positions due to the cohesion our midfield three exhibited but contrived to miss the goal in almost an identical way on at least three occasions when a more powerful, low effort may have produced that elusive game settling second goal. That the Scottish playmaker was getting himself into these favourable situations though should be of great delight to Evatt and those who may or may not have been able to see at home, depending on your luck with iFollow.

The movement and pressing on show in the first half in particular typified what Evatt has been banging his drum about since taking over in the way he wants us to play. On another day we should’ve been out of sight before the Bantams really started turning the screw.

We got over the line though and long may it continue!

Onwards to Saturday and Brisbane Road.