No introduction needed. We look to be getting back on track and to win in the manner that we did on Saturday was just class. Days/moments like that are why we love football.
Here’s how I rated the players:
James Trafford 7
Made two very impressive saves to deny Nurse and Udoh. Also held onto a decent shot from Bowman in the first half. Slightly blotted copybook with a couple of loose passes in dangerous areas and one moment where he rushed out to catch a cross that he had no chance of making. Bowman, thankfully, headed the ball wide. If he can continue to keep clean sheets, then I hope the growing confidence will help him calm down a bit.
Gethin Jones 8
So great to have him back. Mr Consistency was his usual calm and collected self. I think his role as an RCB in a three-back formation could be his best position in time. Always available for a pass, good in possession and fierce in the challenge. We have missed him dearly.
Ricardo Santos 7.5
Thought he was rock-solid. Not as good on the ball as he can be, with some passes going astray, but when he wins everything in the air and blocks every shot near him you can ignore the fancy stuff. Also thought he was more vocal than usual, something he has needed to improve upon since becoming captain. More of the same, please, Rico!
George Johnston 7
I think his confidence is slowly returning. This formation is designed to lighten the burden of physical duels that he is faced with, whilst also offering the chance to spend more time on the ball. At the start of the season, he’d have been a bit more enterprising in possession than he was in this match, but taking the simple and safe option is a good way to play yourself back into form. I was really impressed with him early on in his Whites career, steady showings like this will do him some good in getting back to that level.
Marlon Fossey 7.5
We may have finally replaced Peter Kioso. He’s quick, tenacious, great in the air and always keen to get involved. Not everything comes off for Fossey going forward, but the willingness to keep trying wins support from us Bolton fans. He’ll be a fan’s favourite if he keeps this up.
Aaron Morley 7
Morley was asked to do a lot more defensive work than he was signed to do in the second half. He coped with things reasonably, but it’s his work on the ball that shines. I like his set-piece delivery and the way he keeps his head up to look for teammates in space. He’s growing into this team slowly, but the early signs are positive.
MJ Williams 7
I thought he was brilliant in the first half and provided some bite in a game that really lacked it. He faded after the break when moved into a midfield duo and got overrun at times trying to do the work of two men. Nonetheless, he is vitally important to our success and remains an underrated player on the ball. If we can sign Kyle Dempsey to lighten some of his defensive load we will have a serious DM on our hands.
Kieran Lee 5.5
He looked a little off-colour and perhaps this was due to his injured hip, the reason behind his substitution at half-time. He’s still our most skillful player on the ball, besides Afolayan, but to see him at his best he needs to be rested from time to time. Again, if we sign Dempsey he can become a huge impact-player in the big games.
Declan John 6.5
DJ isn’t playing the same tunes he was last season. He wasn’t poor at Shrewsbury by any stretch, but he was a definite level below most of his teammates. One merely need to look at his muted celebration of Charles’ winner compared to the others to see that something is slightly amiss. Set-piece delivery remains poor, as well as his positioning when played at wing-back. Nevertheless, his runs forward and constant involvement helped the side more than it hindered them.
Amadou Bakayoko 5.5
Working very hard for 5 minutes then slowly jogging around aimlessly for the following 10 doesn’t cut it for a target man. Plus, his inability to win headers despite being 6,4 and built like the proverbial brick shithouse infuriates me. When he puts himself about, you can visibly see defenders quaking in their boots. He just doesn’t do it enough. Additionally, the frustration at being taken off was evident and meant he didn’t acknowledge either the fans or his teammates during his slow walk off the field. Not doing enough to keep Dapo or Bodvarsson out of the team.
Dion Charles 8.5
Superb. He looks to be exactly the kind of striker we have needed for years. Even if he hadn’t scored he would have probably been my MOTM. He mentioned in his post-match interview that he was effectively “crawling off the pitch” such was the amount of work he had gotten through over the 90 minutes. I can recall at least 3 times where he saw a lost cause and still regained possession to create a chance. You marry that kind of industry with the quality of his finish for the winner, you’ve a serious player on your hands. It was a goal worthy of winning any game and my word did he deserve it. I can’t wait to see more.
Dapo Afolayan 7
Another kick up the backside for Dapo as he was left out of the side again, but he responded with another good showing just like against Ipswich. He won several fouls in dangerous areas and set Charles’ goal up with a “scuffed” cross (honestly Steve Cotterill, grow up). He’s not back to his flying best and needs to pass more to his teammates when he’s beaten a few men, but he’s been so used to carrying this side that it must take time to work out that he does now have other players capable of magic moments. I would love to see him and Charles play together up top. Terrifying.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson 6
A solid start for a player with obvious quality but clearly not match-sharp. He showed good touches and experience taking the ball to the corner injury time. I’m looking forward to seeing him at the top of his game, it could be a very good bit of business.