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Five Things: Bolton Wanderers 2-0 Ipswich Town

Liam shares his five things from Wanderers’ first win of 2022

Bolton Wanderers v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Richard Martin-Roberts - CameraSport via Getty Images

Kie-running the show

What a performance from Kieran Lee. With the change of system meaning Wanderers’ talisman Dapo Afolayan was relegated to the bench, the former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder’s responsibility increased markedly. With his adjusted, more advanced role, he thrived and was an absolute joy to watch from start to finish.

Bolton have had a sizeable hole in that position since the departure of former captain Antoni Sarcevic who was able to operate the position often at the expense of Lee, with the former Manchester United trainee having to operate deeper or maybe not getting the minutes on the pitch. Bolton have experimented in that position with even Afolayan him being trialled in the ‘number 10’ role.

The change in system brings a new dynamic to the role as the front two are expected to run the channels which then provides the space for the 10 to receive the ball in advanced areas. Lee’s natural tendency is to move towards the right side of the pitch, and it was from this position he created and finished a superb goal to give Bolton a much-needed breakthrough as the game entered it latter stages. His driving run whilst playing and receiving the ball broke the Ipswich Town lines and whilst he was fortunate to receive his chance, hard work will take you to the place luck will find you and he thoroughly deserved his goal.

Aaron More-Please

It was an impressive debut for former Rochdale midfielder Aaron Morley as he lined up alongside MJ Williams in the heart of the Wanderers midfield. I was particularly impressed with the range of his passing and his tendency to choose the positive option rather than a safe option, which was particularly effective when looking to link up with Wanderers forward Dion Charles who was available for the straight ball through the centre on numerous occasions.

I’m looking forward to seeing more but it was great to see some new blood in an area of the pitch we have needed it for some time.

Trafford Centre of our plans?

That was shite I know, there’s no danger of content like that disappearing behind a paywall any time soon. There will probably be some grammar and spelling mistakes in here as well, please try to ignore them, don’t be a jobsworth, yeah?

Anyway, what wasn’t shite was the debut of the Manchester City loanee James Trafford. Personally, I am conditioned into not liking the goalkeeper playing the ball from the back. Please don’t judge me on that, I’m just from the generation of Bolton fans that saw us profit as football made its slow painful switch into a more possession-based game as Premier League managers gazed lustfully at the work of La Masia academy. We bullied these sides and created a real identity that was later utilised by Stoke City and to a lesser extent Burnley.

Life moves on though and after a few shakey games, Wanderers chose to drop Joel Dixon in favour of Trafford. The goalkeeper was impressive and did everything you can ask from a goalkeeper. I dare say we looked a little more solid defending set-pieces, but we’ll have to wait and see with that one.

System-ic Problems?

Much better that one, just like Bolton’s defence looked much better in a three. We have been under the cosh of late and a big reason for that was conceding goals from mistakes in the defensive areas. The issue you have when these mistakes keep happening, is that they begin to chip away at the confidence within the side, which is so important in a possession-based system. It doesn’t mean the system is wrong, you just lose the ability to execute it effectively.

Bolton needed to win and to win they had to address their biggest problem (set-pieces aside) which is leaking goals. The re-introduction of Gethin Jones is massive but we will get onto that more in a moment. In a three, the added cover the spare CB can provide lessens the effect of a mistake in that area of the pitch, simple stuff really. The cost of having an extra body in that area that you lose the ability to have your high wide players, hence the Dapo sacrifice. The Wanderers made the right decision.

Needs no Geth-introduction

I can’t believe how much a team can miss a right-back. Even playing out of position, Jones’ re-introduction into the Wanderers XI has given Bolton a major lift. Jones really has grown as a footballer over the last 18 months, and it is a joy to watch. It seems a lifetime ago he was competing with Jak Hickman for a place in the Wanderers side and now the full-back is the first name on the teamsheet ,or teamsheets as it turns out.

He was clearly the outstanding candidate to take the role of vice-captain and I hope to see the relationship continue to build between him and Marlon Fossey develop on the Wanderers right. I’d also like see Jones keep striding into the midfield from that RCB position, his confidence and positivity on the ball could have a real impact in that area and add a new dimension to our attack. Be the player everyone seems to think Tim Ream was ...