1 - Best Performance of the Season?
Saturday was a joy to watch. Traveling to the game, I felt an overwhelming sense of optimism. Something was telling me that we were going to get our first win of the year. Despite being the bookies’ underdogs ahead of the game, both Tranmere’s form and the squad we had available gave us a very good chance of getting a much needed three points.
I digress, every player in a Bolton shirt gave a solid performance. The defence kept their first clean sheet at the UNIBOL since mid-November and nullified a potentially threatening Tranmere front line. The midfield were much more solid than their previous outing against Bristol Rovers and our front line were dominant and looked to create something every time we entered their half. Some 23 attempts on target, albeit only four on target, demonstrated the attacking intent on display. Let’s hope we can build on this going forward into a very tough run of games coming up.
2 - The Rolls Royce & The Clean Sheet
The addition of Kean Bryan, to the defence was a welcomed one. A fantastic debut from the Sheffield United loanee. Described by Hill, in his pre-match interview, as a Rolls Royce of a defender, Bryan definitely showed how calm he was on the ball, dominant in the air and a willingness to drive forward. You could argue the only mistake that he made was the mistimed tackle on Morgan Ferrier, leading to a free kick in a potentially dangerous area. However, due to Tranmere’s inability to do anything decent in the final third, it went unpunished.
Kean’s on the ball ability and positional awareness is a perfect match for Nsiala. The two of them seemed to have a great understanding, despite only having one training session together prior to the game. Given more time working together, I can see this partnership being vital to Wanderers bid for survival.
Maybe Keith really does know his onions.
3 - Chris O’Grady
I may be quick to criticise, but I will also give credit where it’s due. I would go as far as saying that O’Grady’s performance was almost perfect, given the task at hand. The inclusion of O’Grady from the start certainly got heads scratching once the team sheet was released, similarly to when Parkinson started Wilbraham against Forest. But, like that Forest game, it worked a treat.
Now, I’m in no way comparing the two, nor the magnitude of the game. But, the lack of Tranmere’s physical presence at the back worked in our favour with two physical strikers. Kudos to Hill for sticking by that team selection. He also took his goal like he belonged on Strictly.
4 - The Improvement of Dennis Politic
Cast your mind back to the start of the season. Wanderers lining out with a group of kids, only a few known to the many. Dennis was one of these. Everyone had heard of the Romanian youngster, mainly because of his loan spell at Salford last season. Those first few games, there was a certain arrogant swagger about the way he played. So refreshing, something we’ve not seen for a long time. Going forward, he always wanted to create. Defensively, fairly weak and often criticised by Hill on the touch line for it.
Fast forward a few months, his all round game has improved massively and his defensive work rate is almost unrecognisable to that at the start of the season. Every credit to him, for the hard work he’s clearly putting in on the training pitch. Hill’s seemingly tough love is working well with him.
5 - Terrible Tranmere
I’ve seen some pretty terrible teams play at the UNIBOL, Macron, Reebok or whatever else you want to call it. Tranmere could quite possibly be the worst. Granted, we played them with kids at Prenton Park, but we’d have battered them with said kids if they’d have played on Saturday. They were hopeless. So weak defensively and nothing in midfield. The potentially dangerous front line of Ferrier and Vaughan were taken out of the game and offered no real threat to the Wanderers goal.
We may say it was our best performance of the season, but how much of that was down to us being good or Tranmere just being really, really shit? I would say a bit of both, but it was nice to see 1600 silent Tranmere fans after Dennis thumped home his scorching opener after two minutes.