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Five Things: Bolton Wanderers 0-0 (5-4) Barnsley

Five things we learned from Wanderers’ penalty shootout win vs Barnsley

Bolton Wanderers v Barnsley - Carabao Cup First Round Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Tactical shift

In League Two, Wanderers were used to dominating possession and breaking down teams that were happy to sit back and soak up pressure. Against both Barnsley and Milton Keynes, Bolton faced teams that wanted to dominate possession. Ian Evatt’s side have been impressive off the ball. Their press isn’t relentless. It’s thought out, considered. Antoni Sarcevic and Kieron Lee did some of their best work off the ball last night.

This season, The Whites will come up against teams that are confident enough to try and dominate the game. Evatt’s team is ready for that.

Tactical flexibility

Amadou Bakayoko changed the game when he came onto the field. Nathan Delfouneso had a disappointing run-out on the left side. With Bakayoko employed as a target man out wide, Ian Evatt is replicating the Kevin Davies role. Bakayoko is able to win flick ons into dangerous areas behind the centre halves.

With Joel Dixon’s impressive distribution, Wanderers are able to “mix it up” in a way they couldn’t last season. Opponents will have to decide whether to press our play out from the back, or sit bodies in the space around Bakayoko.

Joel Dixon

Dixon made a strong case to be Bolton’s #1 in an impressive performance. He is comfortable with the ball at his feet, and scarily accurate with his long kicks. He made two important saves early in the game, and of course made the all-important penalty save from Devante Cole.

Ian Evatt has a big selection headache ahead of Saturday’s game with AFC Wimbledon.

Kieran Lee

Kieran Lee is a sexy, sexy footballer. At times in League Two, the level of competition seemed insufficient for him. Lee was great with the ball at his feet against Barnsley, and an important presence in the midfield press. The arrival of Josh Sheehan has Bolton fans excited. Don’t forget Kieran Lee. On his day, a fully fit Kieran Lee is our standout player. It may be a rare sight this year, to see Sheehan and Lee in the same midfield.

Such is the importance of MJ Williams to Ian Evatt’s system. But when we are lucky enough to see Lee and Sheehan side by side, you might want to bring a spare pair of underwear. It’s going to be sexy football from the first whistle to the last.

Something’s Happening

I never thought I’d see the day when Bolton fans replaced a panicked “get it out!” with a steady ripple of applause for an outfield player resetting possession with the goalkeeper. The Ian Evatt approach has ingrained itself into the way we watch the game. The fans appreciate a ball-playing centre half like George Johnston, or a speculative back heel flick into the danger area. The culture around the club is transforming.

It was only the first round of the League Cup. Only the second game of the season. When Dixon put a firm left wrist to Devante Cole’s penalty, you’d have thought it was a playoff winner. When Josh Sheehan sealed the win, fans and players showed their appreciation for one another. Fans leaving the ground were singing on their way back to the cars. Like I said, it was only Barnsley in the cup (no offence, Tykes). It wasn’t the magnitude of the result that had people uplifted. It’s the magnitude of the change this football club has undergone. Something’s happening here, people.

I don’t know how far we’ll go, or how good we’ll be. But something is happening. And we deserve every second of entertainment that is coming our way.