Optimism was running high in the build up to this game. Real football was back, kind of, with the first round of the League Cup.
Bolton Wanderers set a club record an hour before kick off by naming a full 11 debutants, though Alex Baptiste’s was a bit more of a technicality of course. The last time Bolton started with so many competitive debutants will have been the first competitive game the club played. Adding Shaun Miller as a second half substitute will have, most likely, broken that record as substitutes were probably not an option back then.
Anyway, onto the game itself. It was fairly quickly clear how Bolton wanted to play out from the back with George Taft and Ricardo Santos carrying the ball out with distinction. The DNA was clear to see but so were the defensive deficiencies with Bradford City’s first really clear cut chance coming after about 6 minutes. The striker should have left Crellin with no chance. The lesson unfortunately was not learnt.
Bolton struggled to carve any really clear cut chances in the first half despite dominating possession. Bradford though had a couple of opportunities, with one dipping shot from the edge of the box forcing a good save from Billy Crellin in the Bolton goal. They should have gone 1-0 up later in the half when the opposition player was put clean through with a simple pass down the middle of the park.
Bradford eventually found a break through when space was exploited down the left hand side and the ball was pulled back for a simple tap in. You might be asking where the defensive cover was. Well, who knows.
Bolton did have a couple of chances. A good ball put Nathan Delfonso through but he had no support and was too wide to really trouble the keeper. Taft strode forward and smashed an effort not too far wide from the edge of the box. Eoin Doyle also had a chance when the ball broke to him on the edge of the box following a set piece. His shot was blocked.
It looked like it was going to be a case of the same old Bolton going into the break with nothing to show for ourselves. Ian Evatt must have said something right at the break though as Bolton came bursting into life.
I managed to miss the Bolton goal trying to work out why the dehumidifier was dumping water on the floor. I found the highlights this morning and it was a brilliant goal. Santos played the ball through the entire Bradford team to Delfonso. He cut the ball back and nearly found Liam Gordon. The pass was cut out straight into the path of Antoni Sarcevic who swept the ball home.
Bolton looked far brighter for a spell. Sarcevic received the ball on the edge of the box but was not able to steer his shot on target. As the half went on though Bolton seemed to lose their momentum and Bradford regained control.
A cross from deep found another entirely unmarked Bradford player who looped a header over Crellin into the back of the net. Where were the Bolton defenders? Just chilling in other parts of the box. Bolton never threatened to get back into the game after that point.
There were plenty of positives to take from the game. Bolton showed they are able to maintain possession posting well over 60% of the ball for probably the first time ever. Tom White particularly impressed in the centre of the park keeping the ball moving around.
Taft and Santos are clearly very capable of bringing the ball forward and managing possession. Gethin Jones looked good going forward though Gordon on the other flank looked less confident.
Delfonso looked like a good addition up top with willing running. Though a negative for me was Doyle, who was constantly not where I want to see a striker of his skill set as he dropped wide and deep to get involved in other parts of the game.
The main problem is, the defenders looked good going forward but disorganised defensively. Both goals were entirely avoidable if the defence was in the correct position. Our manager is a former centre back with Premier League experience so I should hope he will be able to solve some of these issues on the training ground. We keep hearing that the team is a work in progress and that will fly for the next couple of matches. Some serious work needs to be put in though as the last thing the club can afford is to drop back into a losing habit.