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Are Bolton Wanderers a better side without Ronan Darcy?

Usual caveats apply

Bolton Wanderers v Bristol Rovers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

Before you get all frothy-mouthed let me be very clear. I totally rate Ronan Darcy and think he’s an excellent footballer.

That said, on the evidence of yesterday’s game, are we a better side without him in the starting XI?

The midfield of Jason Lowe, Luke Murphy and Ethan Hamilton dominated an extremely poor Tranmere Rovers side, allowing the mighty Bolton Wanderers to romp home with a straightforward 2-0 win.

The lack of quality from our opponent should not, in my opinion, detract from what an excellent all-round team performance but it was the midfield that particularly caught my attention.

In previous games, with Darcy in the side, I have felt that we have been too open in midfield, with his somewhat lightweight presence being largely ineffective in a division full of physicality. Would he be a more effective player for us in a higher league? I think so.

Hamilton, Lowe and Murphy have the experience and ability to be amongst the better players in this league and despite previous periods of underperforming are all playing quite well at the moment. Having Darcy in the team forces these water-carriers into being a little more cute with their passes, exposing weaknesses in their game and making our attack more predictable.

Our strengths at the moment lie in our ability to have our full-backs push up, as is the modern fashion, providing service to the likes of Daryl Murphy and, yesterday, Chris O’Grady who can use their height and power where it is most needed. The presence of Darcy behind the central striker means that we sometimes have little choice but to try and play through opposition lines when a more direct route might lead to more chances.

So now that you’ve calmed down a bit, having taken the time to read more than just the headline, I’m glad that you agree with me.

Ronan Darcy is a tremendous footballer who may well go on to have a fantastic career at a much higher level than we can provide, but for the next few weeks with some tough games on the horizon, it might be better for the team to keep him on the bench and ensure that we’re playing fully to our collective strengths.