A 1-0 victory over fellow promotion hopefuls Morecambe widened the gap between Wanderers and the chasing pack to four points, ensuring that a win over Exeter or Crawley, in the final two games of the season, would be enough to earn a return back to League One at the first time of asking.
There was a part of me that wanted to just give every single one of them a 10/10 given the magnitude of the victory, but that would have taken away from the expert analysis you’re about to consume.
Matt Gilks - 7.5
A good goalkeeper stays alert when called upon after a long periods of not having much to do. An easy save from Sam Lavelle early on was about as much as Gilks had to do other than the ordinary distribution and claiming of set pieces, that was up until Cole Stockton forced a smart save with his feet in the dying embers of the game, before Baptiste cleared the follow up off the line.
Gethin Jones - 7
Mr Reliable. Handled the potential threat of Carlos Mendes Gomes extremely well and completely nullified him. His partnership down the right hand side with fellow Welshman, Isgrove, has been a real constant throughout this upturn of form. Two hard working lads who must cover the most distance on the pitch every week. A little bit quieter than usual as the majority of play came down the Wanderers left hand side following the red card.
Ricardo Santos - 7.5
His positional awareness has improved so much over the course of the season. One massive benefit of his speed and physical prowess was that he could make those recovery runs, it comes as no surprise that he isn’t needing to do it as much. I was up out of my seat when he connected with the corner and nodded his header just wide, he deserved a goal. 12 aerial duels won, six more than any other player on the pitch and 12 clearances, eight more than any Morecambe player. His leadership qualities are coming more apparent, he’s constantly giving instructions to those around him. Future Wanderers captain.
Alex Baptiste - 8.5
Running out of superlatives for this man. My heart was in my mouth when he picked up a knock early on, thankfully he ran it off because he has been so important to the second half of our season. I’m not sure why he tried to curl one in from 25 yards, but my God I thought it had crept in. Another player who deserves a goal and I hope he gets one in the remaining two fixtures. Another excellent block off the line to keep the score at 1-0. My Player of the Season.
Ben Jackson - 8.5
Spoke about by many pre-game as the potential weakness in the side and oh how wrong were they. Man of the Match. Ran the game completely, everything seemed to flow through him. More passes than any other player on the pitch and had more touches of the ball than the entire Morecambe back four combined. The ability to use both feet is a dying trait, but it’s fantastic to see a young player who can use both. The attitude he’s shown whilst out of the team has been exemplary. A fantastic goal with his “weaker” foot and could have easily had another if it wasn't for a great save from the Morecambe goalkeeper. Evatt has a real decision to make whether he retains his place against the lively Randell Williams & Co when Exeter visit the UNIBOL at weekend.
MJ Williams - 7
Did exactly what he is there to do. Sat in-front of the back four and cleaned things up when he needed to, which was rare. Enjoyed his fair share of the ball and kept things ticking over. Morecambe’s style of play almost made his role surplus to requirements at times.
George Thomason - 6.5
Perhaps the victim of his own recent high standards. It looked as if the youngster struggled to make his mark on the game. Pass completion wasn't quite to the levels that it has been in recent weeks but he does claim the assist to Jackson’s winner.
Kieran Lee - 7.5
Suits playing deeper so much more. Fantastic footballer and a real joy to watch. 87% pass completion, only bettered by MJ Williams and Alex Baptiste 88% and 90%, respectively. His energy was a real nuisance to the Morecambe midfield and didn’t give them the pleasure of having any time on the ball. The former Sheffield Wednesday man put himself about all over the pitch, much to the dismay of the Morecambe iFollow commentators. A midfield three of Lee, MJ and Sarce at weekend, please.
Lloyd Isgrove - 8
I love him. His performances over the past few weeks have been nothing short of brilliant. I have always been so impressed with his work off the ball and was desperate to see that start to transition into his work with the ball at his feet. That has come into fruition. Sent Songo’o for about 4 hotdogs in the second half. Both he and Ben Jackson put 10 crosses a piece into the box. I think with Sarcevic back in that Number 10 position, we could see a few more goals come from them.
Dapo Afolayan - 7.5
Sign. The. Contract. There are not many players that easily drift past players the way that Dapo does. The few that do, get kicked all over the park. The easiest example, Jack Grealish. In no way am I comparing the two in terms of ability, but the way they can draw a foul from the opposition or get ourselves into a fantastic opportunity by taking a few defenders out of the way is such an asset. We really need to start making the most of those set pieces. There is no surprise that he is the most fouled player in the division. He has been fouled 57 times since he arrived at the club, which equates to 4 fouls per 90 minutes. Not only did he get Kelvin Mellor sent off, but also managed to wind up Derek Adams enough that he received a caution himself. Good decision to bring him off at half time, he was being targeted.
Eoin Doyle - 6
Quiet day at the office. Worked as hard as ever without the ball, pressing from the front. Morecambe’s set up ensured that this game was going to be played in the midfield, whilst they allowed us to keep hold of the ball to try and open up pockets of space or openings. Didn't manage a shot and only touched the ball eleven times whilst he was on the pitch, the same amount as his replacement, Miller. Not much he could have particularly done about that, either. There will always be games like that where they try to nullify our biggest threat.
Nathan Delfouneso - 6
Solid enough replacement for Dapo, did everything he needed to.
Antoni Sarcevic - 7
Great to see him back. Injected a bit of life and tempo back into the game from a Wanderers perspective. Some excellent touches which I hope to see from the outset at weekend.
Shaun Miller - 6
Helped to grind out the result. Are we tempted to play him from the start yet?
Zack Elbouzedi - 6
His pace is a real asset off the bench. Overran one chance late on, but who cares - we won.
Manager - Ian Evatt - 10
A perfect performance from the manager. First off, the team selection was spot on. Bringing Jackson in for this one was a big call after the injury to John midweek. He could have easily played Jones or Brockbank out there, but he decided to put his faith in the Huddersfield loanee and boy did it pay off. The decision to leave Sarcevic on the bench for the undroppable Thomason was also clever. If the game had panned out differently, I’m sure we’d have seen the skipper introduced earlier, but we didn't need him. He came on and injected some impetus into the final twenty minutes or so.
The decision to bring Dapo off at the interval was absolutely the correct thing to do. He was clearly being targeted, not just by the opposition players but the manager as well. He was a red card waiting to happen, given the referee’s odd decision making throughout. Far too many times do we see a referee want to try and even things up. He will be invaluable in the final two fixtures, a suspension would have been a disaster.
He gets a bonus point for calling the referee, or a member of Morecambe’s iFollow commentary team, a bellend. Whoever the intended target, they both deserved it.
Where Evatt earns his 10/10 from me is what happened after the whistle. After being told by police to avoid the fans that had travelled up and take an alternate route out of the ground, the Bolton Manager told his players to meet the fans half way and thank them for their support. To quote LOV’s very own Tom, “He just gets it.” He understands what it means to us. He told the press after the game that it was special seeing those supporters greeting the bus into The Globe Arena.
I don’t think he's seen anything yet. COYWM.