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Five Things: Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Oxford United

5 talking points from the 2-1 game that continues the unbeaten streak

Bolton Wanderers v Oxford United - Sky Bet League One Photo by Dave Howarth - CameraSport via Getty Images

Delightful Dapo

I struggle to put in to words how much I love this guy. He is a truly special player. Whilst it was plain to see that he was better than League 2 last year it has become overtly clear just how much better he was now that he’s having the exact same effect on the League above.

He may have the nickname ‘B-Tech Okocha’ but perhaps a more fitting comparison would be a League 1 Grealish. Opposition players’ find it nigh impossible to get the ball off of him without being suckered in for a foul or getting skinned. This presents us with so many set piece opportunities, counter-attack opportunities and chances to relieve opposition pressure.

You can see the effect Evatt has had on his talents this match because he was never caught wanting on the less glamourous side of the game. He was back whenever Oxford attacked and could still be found pressing in the 90th minute.

The one criticism laid at his door last year was a lack of goals having only scored a solitary goal during his loan spell. Early signs say that you can see that he has taken the advice and coaching on board with this and now he has two goals in the opening four games. There’s a willingness to shoot with belief that wasn’t there last year epitomised by his beautiful long range goal today.

This guy is going places and might just be pulling us along with him.

Defensive dilemma

I assume most were expecting a relatively unchanged team today but there is one area where debate still exists, defence. Whilst being the five player’s that I would select as my first choice they looked very suspect today and were lucky not to concede more.

You could argue that the high line (that I assume was a tactical decision from management) was the main source of issues but I’d argue that’s a bit of a scapegoat when you have as many quick defenders as we do.

Joel Dixon looked impressive with his shot stopping efforts and distribution but is lacking something that his competitor, Gilks, offers in abundance. Voice. Jones, Santos and John appear to be really missing having someone ‘quarter-backing’ their defensive strategy. They weren't as organised and cohesive as last year but it’d be a dick move to blame this on the keeper. They should be organising themselves but he would be helping everyone out if he could just scream at them every now and then.

I still have my doubts if Jones should be starting for a League 1 team with the stated aims of Bolton and today has done little to assuage that (see my Kioso, ‘final piece of the puzzle’ bit from last week). He started brightly but went off the rails after the first 15 minutes or so. I really hope he can push on but I wouldn’t be against looking for some extra competition for him during the last few weeks of the transfer window.

Substitute stubbornness

Every time I have volunteered to do ‘5 things’ I have written about this. I do it in the vague hope that Evatt will be reading this on Sunday morning and will take not but perhaps I am living in a fantasy land? Stranger thing have happened in sports though, CM Punk is All Elite and England made it to a major final this year so to hell with it.

We are throwing away a major tactical advantage every game that we leave substitutions until the last ten minutes. We have a really strong bench so lets USE IT. You only have to see what Wimbledon did to us a week ago to show the benefit of using attacking subs with enough time to make an impact. They got two goals that day from their bench but we bring our attacking talent on with scarcely enough time to warm up. This is the hill I will die on. I will keep writing this. If you disagree with me, fight me!

Time to corner the market

How good was it to see Eoin Doyle score FROM A CORNER to claim victory? We really struggled to cash in on all the set pieces last year and that was probably a main culprit of why we won so many game 1-0 despite dominating.

No such problem today. Eoin Doyle produced a Kevin Davies style header to secure three points and that bodes well for the rest of the campaign. How great is it to have a manager/coaching staff who can see where we need to improve...And then go and do it? Mad.

Jokes aside, we’ll need goals from corners and free-kicks this year because so much of our passing play and approach results in these opportunities. I’d say I hope we’ll see more over the coming season but with Josh Sheehan making the deliveries it’d be harder not to convert them.

Gordon gets the nod from me

One of the surprises today was the omission of Liam Gordon from the starting eleven (and bench) to accommodate Declan John.

Now don’t get me wrong, you won’t find me arguing that Gordon is the better option at this point in their careers but to me there were a few issues raised by dropping him.

For one I don’t believe that it sends the right message that you can come in, do well but lose your spot when the normal guy is ‘fit’ again.

Two. John has had a rocky road with injuries. Enough so that I think he requires an added level of caution when returning him to the fray. He came off in the 70th minute (positively early for Evatt) and I think that’s because he was struggling with fitness. Why play a 70% John when you have a 100% Gordon?

Finally I do think John has to show more to be considered an automatic starter these days. In League 2, sure. But he is still enjoying a reputation that perhaps his performances are not backing up. Yes we’re all pulling in the same direction and yes we all want each other to do well...but Gordon should smell blood in the water and really push John for that spot. Evatt is the kind of manager to respond to such a push so it could be a very interesting struggle for left back this year.

Neil Hair Sucks

An unsanctioned 6th thing this week but it needed saying.