I could probably write a five things about how much I detest Salford City, or more accurately their ownership structure. This dislike was increased by Gary Neville’s pre-match comments on Sky.
Bolton Wanderers though were able to restore the natural footballing order with a comfortable win over a glorified pub team. Onto the five things.
The New Number 1
Matt Gilks’ inclusion I think it is fair to say was a very welcome one for Bolton fans. Billy Crellin needed to be removed from the firing line after a series of high profile mistakes and a bit of good old fashioned solid goalkeeping was needed.
Gilks’ first competitive game in around a year could have been a banana skin. When he was called into action he made two good quality saves to maintain the clean sheet. The main thing you could hear over the awful fake fan noise, apart from Richie Wellens swearing, was Gilks shouting away to control his defence. It was glorious to hear.
Bolton have had their fair share of defensive issues in general all season, but with a couple of exceptions this was a solid performance which will hopefully give the whole defensive unit a real boost.
Hard Work Across the Park
This was picked up on in Wellens’ bitter post match interview. Bolton were getting to everything first across the pitch.
This work rate set up for first goal. Antoni Sarcevic, who was again exceptional, would not give up on winning back possession near Salford’s box. On doing so their defence was not set leaving space for Eoin Doyle to exploit. Doyle’s refuse to give up on a lost cause in the second half applied the pressure which will have contributed to Jordan Turnbull powering the ball past his own keeper.
Aside from the goals, Salford were never really given a chance to form a proper foothold in the game which helped ensure a clean sheet and the three points.
There are a number of stories already this season of redemption. Sarcevic has already been mentioned in this article and it is fair to say that Alex Baptiste has massively exceeded expectations with a borderline man of the match performance.
The man who maybe should have taken man of the match rather than Gilks though was Ricardo Santos who was an absolute beast in defence for Bolton. With one exception he won everything that came near him and he is starting to live up to the hype upon his capture.
The defence as a whole were brilliant, but Santos deserves a huge amount of credit for turning around his form and the perception with Bolton fans so quickly.
Mistakes Bubbling away
The above has all been positive, and as I keep on saying you can see brand Evatt starting to click. Hopefully Bolton will continue to play with the same amount of energy and composure as last night.
That being said there were two glaring mistakes at the beginning of the second half. Salford will feel they should have equalised within 20 seconds of the half starting as the ball cut through our defence too easily. There was another incident I do not recall the specifics of.
Bolton deserve credit for regaining control of proceedings and for not allowing the issues to spiral. This may well be another benefit of having the experienced Gilks between the sticks. But, we cannot be drawn into thinking that was a perfect performance. There is still ample room for improvement for Bolton, which in many ways is exciting to say after a comfortable win as I do think this group has it in them to find that next level.
Crawford is probably the most talented player on Bolton’s books. The problem is I think he knows it and he wants to show it. That is all well and good, and every successful team needs a flair player who can create something out of nothing. Crawford should be able to be that man for Bolton.
The problem last night though was the amount Crawford needlessly gave away the ball and shot towards the upper tiers.
He was constantly trying little flicks rather than controlling the ball and keeping possession. There is of course always a place for invention, but he gave the ball away multiple times by trying to be too ambitious and force the issue. Brand Evatt is, I believe, supposed to be about controlling possession and therefore the game. Flicking the ball to Salford does not help with this.
And then the shots. Oh my. The last game I watched was against Bradford City. In that game Crawford took on two or three long range shots which sailed wide. He also missed a brilliant opportunity in the box. In this game there was another two or three unnecessary long ranged efforts which must have been a massive relief for the Salford keeper.
Crawford should be a key player for Bolton this season and I am sure he will be. But for me he needs to keep things simple more often.