Bolton Wanderers controlled much of the match, but never managed to reflect that on the score sheet. Then comes a, really quite harsh, as reflected by the decision being overturned, red card for Marcus Maddison.
Two points lost, but what can we learn?
The MJ Williams/Ricardo Santos Interchange
Williams enabled Santos’ attacking side by dropping into the back four when Santos moved up the pitch. Watching Santos marauding forward is enjoyable and it was nice to see the tactical flexibility at play, creating something of a hybrid three at the back.
I was impressed by Williams in this role. He seemed to find himself in the right place to break up play and was composed with the ball at this feet. He may not have shown any flare moving forward, but creates that for the team by freeing up Santos.
Given it is still early days in their relationship it is good to see an understanding already well developed on the pitch, between the midfield and defence.
Lloyd Isgrove to the Right
The impact of Isgrove switching sides was immediate. Bolton looked more dangerous with more cutting edge. Prior to the switch no clear openings had been created, within five minutes Eoin Doyle had two pops at goal.
We now have sufficient options in the wide attacking areas to avoid putting square pegs in round holes with Isgrove, Arthur Gnahoua, Maddison, Nathan Delfouneso, Dapo Afolayan, Antoni Sarcevic and Ronan Darcy all able to play in the spaces around the striker. This is probably for the first time in years there is no need to deploy players out of position and indeed that we have had this much attacking depth.
Hopefully Ian Evatt sticks with Isgrove where he can make the largest impact.
Pass, Pass, Lose Possession, Repeat
I made the note; lacking cutting edge, possession for possessions sake and then Nathan Delfouneso delivered the one real stand out moment of the half, and maybe even the match.
Despite that, the point clearly still stands as this really was the main moment of the entire game. It is all well and good keeping the ball, building slowly and trying to create an opening. But, we need more moments of magic and/or a plan B.
Both were lacking for much of this game, but with all the attacking additions made during the window we can be hopeful they will materialise soon.
When he first broke into the team George Thomason was not able to complete with the physicality around him. Fast forward a few months and he looked like a far more composed player for me.
Not only was he still tidy on the ball but was able to affect the game off the ball, taking no prisoners with a couple of full on tackles in the second half. He will likely see his game time decrease once Antoni Sarcevic and Kieran Lee are back in contention. But he undoubtably has potential and his improvement is positive for the future.
This was unfortunately an issue throughout the match, culminating in an easy goal for the visitors. The away side showed little real cutting edge and did not really threaten Bolton’s goal for much of the game, and then with poor defending they are almost gifted a goal.
Many teams in this league lack true quality going forward. But, they have fire power from set pieces. Our inability to defend them is criminal and needs to be changed if we are to stop dropping vital points.