By Jon Harries
Saturday saw Bolton trotting into Stadium MK in fantastic form and with an outside chance of the Play offs. The Dons meanwhile were seven games undefeated after impressive away wins at Sunderland and Charlton in the last seven days and made two changes from midweek with Kasumu and Eisa in for McEachran and Wickham. The game started at a high tempo with the Dons dominant in possession and Bolton looking to utilise the pace of Dion Charles on the counterattack. Scott Twine had a great chance to get the Dons in front that hit the base of the post and rebounded to safety and the hands of the Bolton keeper Trafford after great build-up play down the left. They weren’t to be denied the opener though and took a deserved lead after Harry Darling took matters into his own hands, driving at the Bolton backline before unleashing a shot that Trafford parried into the path of Eisa who took a great first touch before eventually firing into the net at a second attempt, his first goal at Stadium MK since August. The Dons though never had it all their own way with Bolton having a great chance to level from a corner that was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Cumming before being cleared.
The second half started with Bolton dominating possession without any purpose, the Dons defence dealing with every cross with consummate ease. A further corner from Bolton was headed over the bar but apart from that it was comfortable.
The icing on the cake came just before the end of the game. Trafford forced into a poor ball forward after great pressure from Twine, Kesler anticipated the situation intercepted and played the ball across to Twine who took a touch before firing into the back of the net via a deflection, his 14th goal of the campaign and first at home since November. From then on, the game was seen out professionally to continue the imperious form. Undefeated in 8 with 5 clean sheets in that period, a fantastic February from the whole team.
March starts with a very tough test away from home, the league leaders, and the form team in League 1 Rotherham. Unbeaten in their last ten games they look destined for promotion and probably the title. Boss Paul Warne has said during this recent run that Rotherham haven’t played well but are still picking up points on a regular basis with such a professional approach. With the best home and away form in the league so far, we are going to have to be at our very best to beat the best, but our away form as you’ll be aware is superb.
Josh Vickers has been pivotal in goal for Rotherham with 9 clean sheets in his last 10 games. Richard Wood is the leader at the back flanked by Shane Ferguson and Wes Harding who will bomb forward at every opportunity. Ben Wiles and Ollie Rathbone in midfield are simply superb creatively and defensively alongside the Man in Focus Dan Barlaser (more on him later). Up front Michael Smith, Josh Kayode and Freddie Ladapo provide very dangerous ammunition with different strengths that make the defence think constantly. Smith with his movement and physical presence, Kayode with his pace and Ladapo is just deadly given the chance. 30 goals between the 3 of them which does not include Will Grigg who looks like he’ll miss out through injury, simply put a Championship squad in League 1.
Dan Barlaser has quite simply been one of the best midfielders in League 1 this season probably alongside O’Riley before his move to Celtic. With 7 goals and 6 assists in 33 games, keep him quiet and you stand a chance. Able to pick up pockets of space either finding the WBs or running into space himself and taking responsibility upon himself to influence the game. The former Newcastle academy product has certainly made the New York Stadium his home. He does his defensive duties diligently also when needed plus he has a fierce shot on him scoring an absolute worldie against Wigan a fortnight ago. Smith has the goals, but Barlaser deserves the plaudits.
Predicted Line Up
Kesler – O’Hora – Darling – Lewington – Watson
Coventry – Kasumu
Parrott – Twine – Wickham
Even though Daniel Harvie is back from suspension both Watson and Kesler have contributed well in his absence helping to achieve two clean sheets. Kasumu is the perfect person to stop Barlaser and was superb against Dempsey last Saturday. Up top if we can get willing runners off Wickham, we stand a fighting chance of getting a result. This team has grit and determination in abundance these days and will need every bit of that to get any sort of result. I’m predicting a 1-1 draw which in my eyes will be a phenomenal result. The aim is automatic promotion and it’s still possible. With the top 2 on the horizon now it’s time to make a statement.