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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » ANALYSIS: Can Bolton Wanderers continue to play catch-up in League One?

ANALYSIS: Can Bolton Wanderers continue to play catch-up in League One?

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

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Wanderers are League One’s comeback kings… But how long can they afford to give opposition sides a head start?

Incredibly, Ian Evatt’s side have conceded the first goal in 15 of their 20 games this season but shown some impressive resilience by recovering 13 points from losing positions.

That generosity has been especially acute at home, where they have shipped five goals in the opening 15 minutes, without once scoring themselves.

Last weekend’s game against Cheltenham was the sixth time Bolton have gone behind at the UniBol but recovered to equalise.

Over the last few months, Wanderers have proved quite adept at playing catch-up, and beyond that troublesome first 15 minutes they are generally in positive equity. But what is the cause for the slow start? And with Evatt’s options off the bench now limited because of injuries, will the trend become more of a concern?

We know the Whites are unapologetically attack-minded, and that is unlikely to change regardless of what team Evatt puts out on the pitch.

Their traditional strengths have been in controlling possession to the point where opposition sides fatigue, then exploiting the spaces, as evidenced by their stronger goal returns in the second half of games (16 scored to 12 conceded). Now that Evatt has fewer players to impact the game, however, will he have to adjust some of that natural instinct to push forward and ensure his team remain in contention?

A glance around the division throws up some glaring patterns. Neighbours Wigan have scored 13 goals away from home in the last 30 minutes of games and conceded none.

Rotherham United possess a mighty first-half record of 19 goals scored and just two conceded, mirrored by Doncaster’s woeful fortunes in the last half an hour away from home, which has seen them leak 12 goals and failed to score once.

For a long time, Wanderers were known as a team which struggled to get back into games having conceded the first goal. Now there is a sense that they need a kick-start.

With Evatt bringing his players in over the weekend to fine-tune some of his new tactical plans, there may also be an opportunity to address another one of the team’s long-running issues – the dreaded set piece, and in particular the corner kick.

According to data from, Bolton and Crewe have created just two goals from set pieces all season, a total which ranks as the joint-lowest in League One. For information, Fleetwood – who provide the Whites’ next opposition - top the list with 13.

There has been some attempt at variation at corners in recent weeks. Declan John will lift the ball triumphantly over his head before placing it in the quadrant, just as his countryman Josh Sheehan did before his injury. There are other signals as well, one arm aloft, sometimes two, but invariably the ball is played short, worked languidly to the edge of a crowded penalty area and back again, losing all trace of attacking advantage.

Wanderers are not an especially tall side. lists just three players in the top 50 tallest players in League One, Ricardo Santos, Amadou Bakayoko and Joel Dixon – who I must say, has never struck me, someone of decidedly average height, as an especially towering fella.

Not that height should necessarily be the defining statistic for a team’s effectiveness from set pieces. The aforementioned Fleetwood have nobody at all in the top 50 but have still scored eight times from a corner.

But asking Santos, Alex Baptiste, Will Aimson et al to venture forward for every corner kick, only to see things slow down so often seems like a missed opportunity.

Wanderers also win a large number of corners, more than anyone else at home, in fact.

Evatt’s side average 7.5 corners per game at the UniBol (6.15 away from home), which to my untrained eye, seems to be an area that is massively underutilised.

What happened to picking out those darting near-post runs from Eoin Doyle, like the one which supplied the first league goal of Evatt’s tenure in the 2-1 win at Harrogate last season?

Free kicks have been equally fruitless since Sheehan curled that sumptuous effort into the top corner against MK Dons on the opening day.

A quick look at the stats show it isn’t only Bolton who are struggling on that front. Fleetwood have managed a healthy five goals from direct free kicks but only MK (four), Portsmouth and AFC Wimbledon (both two) have more than the Whites.

All of the above will be but minor gripes, so long as the points keep coming. And make no mistake, none of these statistics will surprise Evatt and his coaching staff. Changing them for the better, however, might just make the difference.

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What are the thoughts on this? 
We may not score "from corners" in the way that stats are summed up, but I think our corners are looking more dangerous and useful than they have for many years. We use our corners to start a new attacking move most of the time, so even if it results in a goal, I doubt the stats would reflect it as such...

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