Bolton Wanderers extended their unbeaten run with a fairly comprehensive 2-0 win over Oldham Athletic. On with some talking points.
I will not apologise for constantly coming back to this theme. Bolton again, with the aid of a rash red card, dominated much of possession. The opposition were duly moved around, and Harry Kewell was right Oldham ran more, but that was the idea. Bolton controlled most of the game, winning the ball back with ease. For much of the second half Wanderers controlled 70-80% of possession.
The missing ingredient from Brand Evatt, as it was being set out by the man himself in pre-season, is brutally destroying teams when they are down.
I do not blame the players for this, and I would be perfectly happy to keep winning 1-0 or 2-0 and winning the league. But, this was without doubt an opportunity to cut free against ten men and inflict some damage. Instead Bolton dropped a gear in the second half. As much as I don’t care how many we win by, so long as we keep winning, it would have been nice to put Oldham to the sword.
With Brand Evatt being a constant work in progress, maybe that game is just around the corner?
Reaction to that Tackle
For two games in a row we witnessed a reaction to tackles which, by the footballing authorities later judgement, did not merit red cards. Both led to a sending off, with one of them gaining the opposition team a point. This time it was Bolton’s turn to react to a tackle, which I think everyone but Kewell agreed merited a red.
Not only does this demonstrate a strong team spirit sticking up for each other, it is what is needed, like it or not, to push the officials into making a decision which favours you. Particularly when there are no fans in to make a fuss.
Building from the Back
With all the talk about the various attacking signings this season, it is the defenders who are currently laying the ground work for victories.
I have no specific stats to pull out, but, Declan John scored in consecutive games and assisted in one and then Gethin Jones assisted in this game. Add to that five clean sheets in the last six and the case for defence has never been stronger. If you were to vote for player of the season right now, I bet they would be a defender, and probably Ricardo Santos.
Whisper it, but the best teams are always built on a solid defence. And these days in particular they are also built on full backs capable of offering a threat at the other end of the pitch. Bolton currently have a perfect balance.
A Little More Cutting Edge
The attacking performance had a little more to it I felt than in recent weeks. Things just seemed to be clicking for more players moving forward.
Nathan Delfouneso’s first touch pass to bring Jones into the game for the first goal was brilliant. Oladapo Afolayan’s shot which set up Eoin Doyle for the second was beautiful and so nearly earned him a place on the scoresheet in Doyle’s place. Afolayan in general looked menacing throughout. Also, even though it just would not come off for Marcus Maddison on the night, his direct running had Oldham looking seriously concerned.
The only criticism you could level at this Bolton team is they have the talent to score more than they have been. In my view the pieces may be starting to fall into place on that front.
Eight unbeaten with seven wins is quite something. Especially when you consider that had Maddison not been, wrongly, sent off it likely would be eight wins on the bounce.
This next run of games is key though. A trip to in form Bradford City followed by hosting top three Cambridge United and a trip to fellow automatic promotion hopefuls Forest Green Rovers a few weeks later. This is likely a make or break spell of games.
If Bolton can come through this spell with a couple of wins, or even unbeaten, then the play offs could be the least of our ambitions. In this kind of form, anything is possible.