Impressive Bolton outclass Gillingham

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Phil Parkinson

Four high-quality goals in a well-organized performance saw Bolton Wanderers to a 4-0 win over Gillingham on Monday night. The Gills struggled with the home side’s physicality all evening and though they got into good areas at times, a combination of a poor end product and good Trotters defending saw them fail to score.

Bolton midfielder Josh Vela was given the licence to press high up the pitch and close down Baily Cargill, with Gary Madine outmuscling the other visiting centre-back, Max Ehmer. The attacking duo combined for the opening goal. After some good play from the silky Zach Clough, Vela cut onto his right foot and crossed for Madine to nod home from close range.

Bolton’s efficient pressing meant Gillingham were unable to get midfielders on the ball and turn in the opposing half. When they did get into good areas, their crossing and shooting could not match the quality of Bolton. Franck Nouble, one of the away side’s brighter performers, mustered their only shot on target in the first half with a shot straight at Ben Alnwick.

Phil Parkinson’s sides are not always known for stylish football but Clough and Vela combined wonderfully for the second goal. In a sumptuous one-two, the former showed great intelligence to find a pocket of space in the box, before backheeling for the latter to slot home.

Gillingham started the second half brightly and after a cross from Nouble, Jake Hessenthaler headed just wide. The midfielder began to see more of the ball in a 15 minute spell as Scott Wagstaff got forward a lot from right-back, before being moved into a more advanced position. However, Bolton’s back four worked in tandem and that helped them navigate the away side’s pressure.

As the game went on, Bolton’s task became less about pressing, as they had done well early on and more about slowing the game down. They added a third when Madine headed home, after a good free-kick delivery from the tireless Jay Spearing.

Sammy Ameobi combined well with Wilson to cause problems down the right. The former added to the rout on 80 minutes, teasing a frail Paul Konchesky before unleashing a powerful effort beyond Stuart Nelson.

The long-serving goalkeeper was unlucky to concede four. He had made two good saves earlier in the match, which perhaps reveals less about Nelson and more about how far Gillingham have slipped from the division’s elite. If Justin Edinburgh’s troops are to return to the top six, they need more physicality and organization in defensive areas. Bolton have that in abundance – and on the evidence of four superb goals, confidence in Horwich is starting to flow.

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