That. Was. Brilliant. After years of watching dross Bolton performances with long-ball tactics, inept defending and insipid attacking, it feels as though we have a team that is actually capable of doing it all.
Wycombe have been a massive bogey-team in the last few years and until this game we hadn’t even scored against them, let alone taken any points from our encounters. Two goals from Kyle Dempsey, one for Aaron Morley and superb team performance later, we have gotten out of our Wycombe-inspired funk. This was a great watch and, hopefully, a sign of things to come this season.
Without further ado, here are my player ratings:
James Trafford 7.5
Faultless, even if he had little to do for long periods. I’ve said it before but the ability to claim crosses is a huge feather in the cap of any goalkeeper, especially one that is still in his teen years. It takes so much pressure off a defence that struggles with direct play and clearly something our backroom staff have worked on with Traff. Throw in the fact he distributed the ball well and made some good saves, it was a great performance.
Gethin Jones 7
Had a quiet day such was Wycombe’s preference to target our left-hand side with the pace and skill of Garath McCleary. Even so, he was dependable as ever in defence, showing a good ability to compete with Sam Vokes in the air. He also showed good link-up play with Conor Bradley, getting forward when he could without negating his defensive responsibilities. Mr Consistent strikes again.
Ricardo Santos 7.5
He won’t have many more difficult strikers to deal with than Vokes this season and the former Burnley man was largely kept quiet. Rico was caught sleeping just before the end of the first-half when he let Anis Mehmeti have a free header that the Albanian nodded over the bar, but this was a blot on otherwise clean copybook. He carries the ball superbly, passes accurately and is unbeatable in 1v1 situations. My Captain.
George Johnston 7
He has bulked up and now looks ready to front-up in League One. With his new physique and attitude, I am hoping we will see a Johnston who can’t be bullied like last year’s version. The young defender could do with being more confident on the ball as he has the ability to be a real asset with his passing, but if he sacrifices this part of his game to focus on being a solid defender, as he showed in this game, I won’t have too many concerns.
Conor Bradley 8.5
Electric, both in defence and attack. For a slight lad he packs one hell of a punch in the tackle, his legs stealing the ball off attackers and thundering into challenges in equal measure. I could wax lyrical about his solidity, but it would do a disservice to his attacking exploits that will be so crucial to us this year. An assist for the first goal, in what was one of several mazy runs that Jordan Obita failed to cope with all game, adds to the foul he suffered for the penalty last week. I imagine he will be near the top of the creativity charts come May. We are going to fall in love with another loanee, aren’t we?
MJ Williams 7.5
He is so vital to this side. The platform he provides for our attacking threats to go and sparkle cannot be underestimated in terms of importance. Physical, great positioning and gorgeous long locks, enough said.
Kyle Dempsey 9
A fully-fit Kyle Dempsey is some sight to behold. On another day he could have had 4 goals, but we’ll take 2 great finishes for now. What was equally as impressive was the energy and desire he showed to press Wycombe and force them into errors. While Kieran Lee has guile and vision to be an effective 10, Dempsey is an animal who won’t give opponents a moment’s peace. He could be a lethal weapon if he remains injury-free, he’s also built like a brick out-house.
Aaron Morley 8.5
We often hear of midfield technicians having a “wand of a left peg”, but where is the love for our right-footed magicians? Aaron Morley is just that: a magician. A great goal, yes, but his range and accuracy of passing is terrifying for someone so young. The ball he sprayed out to Dapo whilst under pressure was one of the best passes I’ve seen live. He’s confident, energetic and has a magical right foot. I’m very excited to see how far he can go, hopefully with Bolton.
Jack Iredale 7.5
I thought he looked an excellent option for us to have on the left-flank. More defensively solid than Declan John and while he lacks the pace of our Welsh Wizard, he has the same industrious attitude. He found himself in some great crossing positions and looked effective, even if he definitely needs shooting practice. Looking forward to seeing him when fully-integrated into the team. Props to dealing with the McCleary all day, as well.
Dapo Afolayan 9
In the 90s Wanderers played Sheffield Wednesday in match that is remembered for Andy Booth’s hattrick. The match should be remembered for Jimmy Phillips scything Paulo Di Canio early in the piece, a moment that irritated the Italian maverick so much that he turned in one of his best-ever showings for The Owls. Nobody told Jack Grimmer about this game, as he did exactly the same to Dapo with similar results.
The man, when on this form, is just embarrassingly good. He takes the mick out of the opposition with silky dribbling, excellent passing and impressive physicality. He should have scored, he thoroughly deserved to, but an assist and being so terrifying that he was triple-marked at times paid dividends for his teammates. Can it be the end of the transfer window soon?
Amadou Bakayoko 7.5
I think we were all disappointed to not see Dion Charles in the squad, in hindsight he’d have had a field-day against a poor Wycombe defence. However, Baka was hugely influential and gave the usually solid Ryan Tafazolli a torrid time. He should have had a goal to his name, and had his Gazza-esque stretch in the first half led to a goal it would have gone down as one of our best, but the work and intelligent touches he provided did not go unnoticed. His technique is improving all the time, evidenced by his perfect pass for our third goal. We have some serious options in this squad.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Kieran Sadlier, George Thomason, Declan John and Elias Kachunga 7
To be able to bring this quintet off the bench emphasises the strength of the squad. Two of them have played Premier League football and one has World Cup appearances on his CV. If we can stay relatively injury-free, we could be in for some season. I’m excited, you should be too!