BIG MATCH VERDICT: Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Morecambe

·4-min read
MY BALL: Kieran Lee holds off Morecambe’s Liam Gibson
MY BALL: Kieran Lee holds off Morecambe’s Liam Gibson

WANDERERS jumped up into fourth in the embryonic League One table with a win against Morecambe that should have been more comfortable than it proved to be.

On top for the vast majority of the game and leading through Conor Bradley’s first-ever league goal, suspended manager Ian Evatt should have been able to sit back in his seat and enjoy the show in the second half.

But as his side wasted a couple of presentable chances, the Bolton boss might have been looking for anxiously at the clock in the corner in the latter stages than he could possibly have expected at half time.

Wanderers defended what little Morecambe mustered well, especially Will Aimson as he deputised for Ricardo Santos, but the comfort of a second goal sadly never arrived.

The first half looked like it was heading along similar lines to the last meeting between these two teams, where Morecambe camped out in their penalty box and Wanderers tried in vain to find a path to goal.

Bolton’s fans could see what was unfolding. And while there were a few murmurs of frustration as attacks broke down 18 yards out, the ball then recycled all the way back to James Trafford, UniBol patrons are becoming wiser to Wanderers’ game.

Morecambe actually started with a few flashes of ambition as Whites old boy Arthur Gnahoua’s pace proved useful and the visitors exploited the same sort of spaces that Salford did in the Carabao Cup. Thankfully, the gaps were plugged faster and more efficiently, and Bolton’s domination of possession could then begin.

Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, making his first league start of the season, put the first shot on goal with a powerful header from Aaron Morley’s corner.

Bolton have worked harder this season on set pieces and it is starting to show. Morley’s delivery was generally good but the desire to be on the end of the cross, and the placement of the attacking players looks to be far more organised than it had in the past.

Missing their captain and their manager through suspension after red cards at Port Vale, Bolton’s fans may have wondered if it was their team’s turn to play against 10 men when Max Melbourne went thundering into a challenge on Kieran Lee dead in front of the dugouts. Despite the crowd baying for heavy punishment, referee Anthony Backhouse was lenient, giving only a yellow card.

Wanderers continued to tap politely on the door. Gethin Jones curled a shot wide from distance, Kyle Dempsey and Kieran Lee passed up chances to shoot as an orderly queue seemed to form in the Morecambe box.

Then, finally, thankfully, the seal broke. Declan John, Dempsey and Lee worked the ball into the box on the left before Bodvarsson helped it on to Bradley to squeeze a shot past his namesake Ripley.

Relief all round at the UniBol. And a lovely hark back from the Liverpool youngster as he looked up at the scattering of travelling supporters and put his finger to his lips, just as a certain Amadou Bakayoko had done on that stormy afternoon on the coast last season.

For all their domination, the lead was still a slender one. Elias Kachunga came within inches of turning in a brilliant cross from Bradley but at the other end, a sobering moment as another ex-Bolton man, Ryan Delaney, headed narrowly wide from Ash Hunter’s cross.

For all their desire to get a second, Evatt’s side had to be careful not to gamble too many men forward and get caught on the break. A timely challenge from Aimson on Jacob Bedeau prevented just that at a stage in the game where Morecambe briefly emerged from their defensive coma.

Bradley continued to cause havoc each time he pinched the ball and drove at his opponents. Kachunga nearly profited from another good ball into the box and both Dempsey and Morley had shots blocked on the edge of the area. For all their negative football, Morecambe are nothing if not brave at the back.

Evatt replenished his front line with Bakayoko and Dapo Afolayan – then swapped MJ Williams for Lee, to add an extra bit of insurance of the game becoming too ‘transitional’ in the last 10 minutes.

Bakayoko could have settled it all. A fine pass from Williams found an ever-willing runner in Dempsey on the left and his cross dropped perfectly for the former Coventry City man, whose effort bounced off the turf and wide.

Aimson made another fine defensive interception after Hunter tried to square a ball for Dylan Connolly – giving yet another reminder just how slender the lead still was.

All of a sudden it was Bolton dropping deep. Williams’ rash challenge conceded a free kick 35 yards out and a chance for Morecambe to load the box, and when Hunter’s free-kick dropped on the head of Farrend Rawson, the whole stadium held its breath. Mercifully, the ball ended up in Trafford’s hands.

The finale had no right to be nervous. Another Hunter corner was lifted over the bar by Liam Gibson in the final minute, most of which was then eaten up by some delicious gamesmanship from keeper, Trafford.