Whilst our season starts with a home defeat and the continuation of that losing feeling us Wanderers fans have become depressingly familiar with these past few years, when looked at in the context of the huge changes at our club this summer, there are a lot of genuine positives to take from this game.
Bolton are so obviously a work in progress that it was painful to watch at times, but that should be expected when you throw a whole new team together in just two months. Statistical data analysed signings for positions/system or not, human nature demands a bedding in period. I’m sure that Evatt is working hard to make this ‘getting to know you’ phase as brief as possible. Nevertheless the quality of a few individuals is already starting to show. We just need the rest to catch up and then hopefully we will have some team.
Bradford were better than I expected, played well as a team and took advantage of Bolton’s unfamiliarity. However, Novak aside, they are no great shakes and this match was a fairly even contest in my opinion.
So to our players.
Crellin’s competent performance was a relief after watching the horror show clips from the Crewe game. Two superb saves as well. Looks a real prospect, just a shame he is Fleetwood’s player.
Jones put in a generally superb performance on the right wing and would have been a MOTM contender if he hadn’t faded in the second half. Gordon had a poor game being neither effective going forward or protecting Taft in defence.
The back three were probably the most exposed by a team yet to get to grips with this new 3-5-2 system Evatt wants to play. Santos & Taft did well going forward, with Santos setting up the Bolton goal. But both players were shaky in defence & both lost players they were meant to be marking, particularly when Bradford hit Bolton on the break and were the reason we let two in. Taft did look better defensively than Santos, but his errors cannot continue if we are to be difficult to beat this season. For me Baptiste grew into the game after a very shaky start.
Up front, Doyle looked isolated and his frustration showed when he dropped deeper as the game went on. Delfouneso had a good game I thought and I can see why Evatt signed him up.
The surprises however were in midfield. Comley hopefully just had a bad day at the office, but was hugely disappointing and rightly subbed. His replacement, Crawford, didn’t really get chance to get into this game. Sarcevic just didn’t seem at the races early on, possibly feeling the weight of expectation that rests on his shoulders. He scored a well worked goal though and we can but hope that that gets him back on track for the FGR game. There is no getting away from the fact that he is THE critical player in this team.
For me though, White was the big surprise. When I’d heard that we had signed him, I cannot deny being a bit underwhelmed. A 23 year old player who’d not broken through at Blackburn, with the vast majority of his first team football experience being at non league level. But statistics don’t give a full picture, something Phoenix needs to remember, because Bolton need a proper scouting network as well as a statistical analysis team, if ‘moneyball’ is to work. But that’s another story.
Anyhow, White had played previously under Evatt and Ian obviously thought that White had what it takes to succeed in League Two. Based on yesterday’s game, he’s right. White dominated his opponents, looked self assured, at ease on the ball, tackled and passed with aplomb, was always wanting the ball and worked his socks off to great effect. If not still contracted to Blackburn, he’d undoubtedly be on a two year contract with Bolton, as a club with one eye on players who are also likely to do the business in League One. Only the first game of course, but a great start by the youngster and there is now a question mark on who will be the middle three for the match against Forest Green.