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Ratings: Bolton Wanderers 5-1 Salford City

Lee rates the players after their convincing League Cup win

Bolton Wanderers v Salford City - Carabao Cup Photo by Mike Morese/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Joel Dixon 7.5

It is comforting that should an injury beset James Trafford, that at least Dixon has returned to a semblance of form.

His performance was composed and he played the sweeper keeper role to perfection, as The Ammies looked to spring in behind as often as they could to penetrate our high line in the first half. This tactic yielded early results in Brandon Thomas-Asante’s goal, as the visitors looked to take advantage of a distinctly off colour (and later to be confirmed as suffering with illness by Ian Evatt) Declan John.

He was blameless with the goal, as a slight nick on Asante’s shot took it right into the side netting of his goal and he made the most of his opportunity with a couple of eye catching saves. Good to see his confidence has returned, as he was nowhere near as bad as some were making out when he came out of the side, albeit it was still clearly the correct call from Evatt, given the air of calm and authority Trafford gives our backline.

Gethin Jones 7.5

Steady-as-you-go again from our Mr Consistent. Captain for the night, Geth dovetailed well with Kieran Sadlier all evening, making some lung-busting recoveries when our offside trap was breached.

Our win ratio with him in the side is reaching abnormal proportions now, and he is a real figurehead for the club now. Just seems to get the job done and exudes calmness and unfussy capability. Top man.

Will Aimson 7

One who certainly got better as the night progressed, like much of the team. Some wayward (not aimless, but very Aimson like!) passing in the first half an hour was indicative of the sloppy start we made. His influence grew, however, and he dealt well with target man Matt Smith, getting the better of him by the end of the encounter.

Our Will is clearly not a star of the side, but is one that Evatt alludes to when talking about keeping the rest of the squad happy and in a frame of mind to come in and do a good job for the team when they are required.

Promotions can be won and lost on the strength of a squad. Aimson rarely lets us down over a ninety minutes in that respect, despite a hairy moment or two in most of his appearances!

George Johnston 7

Being ultra picky, he could’ve engaged quicker with Asante for the goal, instead of back pedalling, once he had got into a position to challenge the Salford speedster.

His game on the whole, though, was his usual mix of calm and steady, with measured and accurate passing to move us up the field and a nice link-up with Jack Iredale in the second half. He’s a mainstay of the side now and his consistency is becoming encouraging.

Kieran Sadlier 8

There was just one moment in the first half which encapsulated why I still have slight concerns over his capabilities to play the wing-back role. There looked to be a foul that should’ve been given our way towards the right touchline midway through the first half. It wasn’t given, and instead of getting on with play, Sadlier paused to throw his arms up in protest. In that split-second, he allowed his man to receive a one-two and race away down the flank.

To his credit, he caught up pretty well and slowed the move down. No harm done. But if Evatt spotted this, he’ll want to stamp out any potential for this kind of thing to become a consistent occurrence. A better player in a better team would probably have punished that momentary lapse in concentration.

I hate nit-picking after a 5-1 win, I really do, especially as the mercurial Irishman played a huge part, in the second half especially.His tricky wing play, pinpoint imaginative passing and of course, his goal, well struck but with a heavy deflection that proved pivotal in sending it past Tom King, all helped contribute to a huge team effort to turn a game that looked like a potential banana-skin, into something much more enjoyable for all at the UniBol.

But Evatt will know that it is on these fine margins that games are often decided, and I just hope that when he does fill in for Bradley at RWB, that he can remain switched on and focused at all times

I think his best position would be as the No.10 in certain games, where we might encounter a low block. He’s probably the best striker of a ball, dead or moving, at the club, and that ability, allied to his vision, means he could unpick many a lock for us this season.

MJ Williams 7.5

It speaks volumes for MJ’s place in the managers thoughts that he sees him as a non-negotiable starter for a game like this.

His durability and consistency in the team is such an important asset for any successful side. The defenders know they can trust him to cover diligently for them if they step out, while the free 8’s that Evatt has deployed at the start of this season are safe in the knowledge that if they maraud forward, they won’t be leaving gaping holes for the opposition to exploit centrally, if the move breaks down.

Alongside Gethin and Rico, he’s the bedrock of our side and put in another display here that befitted that status.

George Thomason 7

The soft red card unfortunately tainted a quietly impressive evenings work for the young grafter, who’s passing was on point and always forward thinking. He has noticeably bulked up and can compete more readily in physical battles in the middle of the park. Once he earns the right to play, he has that weight of pass that can help unlock defences, while always doing the work that the team needs.

Hopefully the suspension won’t materialise if the 4th red card we’ve appealed against in recent seasons ends in a 4th reprieval. I’m glad that Evatt has persevered in using him as much as he can, in a position that is stacked with quality and quantity.

Declan John 5

The admission from the gaffer that he was under the weather puts his performance in a different light, and he is to be applauded for trying to battle through the effects of whatever he was suffering from. It does seems unnecessary for Evatt to have risked him, though, given Jack Iredale’s availability and the emergence of young Max Conway in this position, too.

He was way off the pace and couldn’t handle the combination of Asante and Luke Bolton in that worrying first 20-25 minutes. The difference in our solidity in the second half was marked. To my eyes, it could be Iredale’s position to lose now, although Evatt has suggested in summer interviews that he sees this position in the team especially as one for a horses-for-courses approach.

Get well soon, Dec!

Kieran Lee 9

This was the golden touch’ed one at his imperious best. Always available for a pass, always looking to create or find a teammate in a better position than himself. Just the epitome of a team player who constantly thinks of the greater good.

His work rate to win the ball back in Salford’s area and his pinpoint lifted cross that was begging Elias Kachunga to bury was superb. His part in the Afolayan goal was the kind of understated excellence from this beautiful footballer we have come to know and cherish.

I sincerely hope he just really loves his football and keeps signing extensions with us until his late 30’s, as there’ll always be a place for a player like him. The first half a yard is very much in his brain, as they say, and he adds a real calm authority to the side when he is picked.

A joy.

Elias Kachunga 8.5

Was this his best game in a white shirt? It’s certainly a close call between this and Cheltenham at home last season.

His goal seemed to spark something in him (editor; that’ll be this thing called confidence!) and his sharp turn and quick feet to pull away from his marker, providing the 30th pass of a patient, probing move involving all 11 players, in laying it on a plate for JDB to sweep home was great to see.

A real workhorse performance from Elias and it’s just fantastic to see so many ‘fringe’ players showing good form and a real desire to give the manager a firm nudge that they are very much an option for him in the more serious business of league matters.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson 9

I just seriously love this guy. To come back from being disparaged as one of Millwall’s worst ever players to what he is showing in pretty much every game he plays is truly a superb effort from him, Evatt and the coaching staff.

From smart touches in the build-up, to deft flick on’s and rangy strides, powering at defences, JDB has pulled at my heart strings. When we signed him I really thought, having not intently watched him in the past, that he would be simply a plan B for when ‘Brand Evatt’ was failing to hit the mark. That he fits in beautifully with plan A too, and acts as that focal point and aerial threat into the bargain, well, that was beyond my wildest dreams in regards to how he could fit in and thrive with us.

Get him a new deal ASAP, as he’s another who I feel could play on and on now he looks to have found his spiritual home and may still have room for development. Look at Gudni, Jussi, Per & Eidur ; they’re like fine wines these Scandinavians and I personally want to see JDB in a Bolton shirt for a lot longer than till the end of this season, when his current contract expires.


Jack Iredale 8.5

Instantly shored us up at the back and played a big part in the all-important third goal, hitting a perhaps fortuitous cross-field ball that finally reached Sadlier to blast home.

His movement to get away from the defender before the cross was lovely (for a big man!) and he just has a presence that Dec doesn’t. Looks a superb signing, yet again, from Evatt, Markham & co.

Dapo Afolayan 8

Nice little cameo for Dapo, that I felt was a bit of a risk not worth taking at the time by Evatt. Took his goal well and survived Luke Bolton’s crude attempts to send him back down the tunnel before the match ended, thank god. Good for him to get off the mark in competitive games.

Conor Bradley 8

Good Lord, what a player we have on our hands here. That strike was as true as you’ll see this season, and although a bit close to King in the Salford net, the power just beat him all ends up.

So excited to see what he can do in the next few months as we strive to establish ourselves in the top echelons of this division.

Lamine Toure and Nelson Khumbeni n/a

Not sure Toure touched it more than once but a lovely moment for the lad to make his debut after, I think, about 8 or 9 years with the club. Looks athletic and a real prospect.

Khumbeni looked bright in his cameo, and he would be arguably the most likely to break through with his position as a midfield holder and the obvious lack of a midfield enforcer should MJ be absent. Having this layer of hungry, young professionals beneath the first team feels progressive and the right way to go about things. Let’s hope that some can break through and add to the already impressive depth that Evatt & co have built over their time with us.