Bolton Wanderers entered the game with a spring in their step gained after fighting back to draw with Barrow and then putting in a season best performance against Cambridge United.
From the start of the game Wanderers seemed to be playing with confidence and control to an extent I do not remember seeing from the men in white. The players across the pitch were doing all of the right things and dominating.
A couple of the early signs of this came through Alex Baptiste who for the first five or so minutes was a cut above anyone else on the pitch. First came an instinctive block to steal possession. Then came the far more uncharacteristic involvement of Baptiste surging forward exchanging possession with the wing back and seeing a shot blocked for a corner.
Bradford City were completely suffocated out of the game in the early stages by the Bolton press. Bolton were in full control when Ali Crawford launched a brilliant volleyed pass up to Antoni Sarcevic. Sarce got in on goal, lobbed the keeper but found the cross bar. The ball dropped to the defender who headed his clearance against the bar. At this point the ball fell to Nathan Delfouneso who drilled the ball home, off another visiting defender.
A comical goal, but finally Bolton were getting the rub of the green!
It continued to be all Bolton. A couple of free kicks were launched towards the Bradford box which came to nothing. For one Ricardo Santos seemed to have three players try and foul him only to concede a free kick for absolutely nothing.
Crawford was particularly impressive in covering every blade of grass throughout the match. It is just a shame that he did not have his shooting books with him. His first real chance was a free kick which he looped over the bar from a good position.
The half came to an end without Bolton being able to capitalise on their almost total dominance of proceedings. The second half would be a very different story.
The first major action did see Fonz power forward into the box. With the only decision seeming to be a shot he attempted a poor cross. Poor decision making would continue to dog Bolton, but at least we are getting into these areas.
Poor decisions at the other end nearly opened things up for former Bolton ‘favourite’ Clayton Donaldson. Thankfully for Bolton it fell to Donaldson so no harm was done. The warning was not heard though. Next up Billy Cellin came flying out missing the ball, which thankfully fell straight into Bolton hands.
It was not all one way traffic with Peter Kioso bounding forward once more. His cross could not quite find Sarce but the threat remained. Crawford tried to find his range a couple of times but unfortunately only succeeded in finding the same spot in the stand. Later in the half he would spurn a golden opportunity in the box bending the ball far wide with only the keeper to beat. Such wastefulness would have been punished on another day.
Another warning shot is fired at the other end of the pitch with Bryce Hosannah being too honest to go down under pressure in the box before missing the chance. Such honesty will keep me praising till the break of day. Harry Brockbank, who had put in an almighty shift, was taken off for Jamie Mascoll. Mascoll nearly made his first involvement giving away a spot kick.
Things started to get very edgy around the Bolton box. Another shot was cleared just over the home sides bar. Not long after this some lazy defending by Fonz lead to the penalty which had been coming. A poor penalty was well saved by Crellin to give me joy in my heart.
The two sides traded chances as the half moved towards its conclusion. Sarce was everywhere on the night and Mascoll was on the march. More poor decision making meant no clear cut chances were created apart from Crawford’s aforementioned miss.
Bradford shredded a few more Wanderers finger nails too. Crellin was caught in no mans land on the edge of the box leaving an open goal. Ryan Delaney was on hand, as he was all night, to tidy up. Santos gave away a cheap free kick in stoppage time, but it was Bradford who came closest to throwing away a goal.
Their keeper hit a deep free kick straight at Ronan Darcy, who will have given his many fans plenty to preach about with an energy filled five minute cameo. Darcy was unable to bring the ball under control quickly enough though with an open net the only thing ahead of him.
This was a performance of much promise. Decision making at both ends needs to improve, but the foundations finally seem to be setting for this, potentially exciting, new Wanderers side.