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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » Plan of attack: How has Gary Madine's exit changed Wanderers' outlook?

Plan of attack: How has Gary Madine's exit changed Wanderers' outlook?

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karlypants

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Unpredictability of selection in attack could end up working in Phil Parkinson’s favour as he plots a route through the final 17 games of the Championship campaign.

Few would have guessed a Wanderers would field a front two of Sammy Ameobi and Tyler Walker prior to kick-off on Friday night against Bristol City, let alone Robins boss Lee Johnson.

Likewise, as Slavisa Jokanovic prepares his side for their visit to the Macron this weekend, the Serbian coach cannot be full sure which combination of strikers his defence may face.

Gary Madine had been the first name on the team-sheet for much of the campaign to date, and though some argued his presence up front limited the kind of football Wanderers could play, his form and goal-scoring return warranted the manager’s faith.

The striker’s sale to Cardiff City – and the lack of a direct replacement – has now thrown up a mid-season conundrum Parkinson and his staff. Changing the fundamental tactics of a team at this stage and maintaining consistency in the league will take some doing.

But Friday night’s victory has also put a more positive spin on events. Wanderers may now have an element of surprise and variety in their attack they simply have not had before.

Sammy Ameobi’s importance to the Whites went up a notch against Bristol City, with the former Newcastle United man showing his versatility by playing initially in a free role behind Tyler Walker, then as a straightforward number nine when Zach Clough came on in the second half.

Despite being nearly 6ft 4in, Ameobi is no target man. There were, however, some encouraging glimpses of interplay with both Walker and Clough which suggest he could continue front and centre for the time being, as the Whites get used to feeding the front men with a different kind of service.

With just a couple of days to prepare between deadline day and Bristol’s visit, no-one would have expected a massive difference in Bolton’s approach. Yet according to stats issued by Whoscored.com, there is already evidence of a slight drop in the number of long balls played by Wanderers, and a discernible difference between the passes played at head-height (just 16 per cent compared with 24.6 per cent in the previous game against Ipswich Town).

Honing the new approach on the training ground will be this week’s aim. And with no obvious first choice plan of attack, all of Parkinson’s available strikers will feel they have a chance of featuring against Fulham.

Walker’s raw pace sets him out against most of his competitors, and the Nottingham Forest loanee gave a good account of himself for the first hour against Bristol City, going close with one near-post effort.

Clough’s talents need no introduction to Bolton fans, who welcomed his home-coming with rapturous applause on Friday night. Happiest playing in behind a main striker, the youngster’s intelligence around the penalty box and expert set pieces could be a valuable weapon.

Aaron Wilbraham remains Wanderers’ only recognised target man and was recruited at the start of the season as someone to take some of the physical burden off Madine. A few niggling injuries and fragmented game time has meant the 38-year-old has struggle thus far to gain traction – but the 38-year-old will hope for more of an opportunity in Madine’s absence.

The same can be said for Adam Le Fondre, who seemed to be pushing for a first team recall before the great attacking shake-up after some good performances over Christmas.

Unquestionably popular with the fans, Le Fondre has already proved he can score goals alongside Clough in the past. Time will tell whether Parkinson decides to re-united the pairing in the Championship.

Another unknown quantity is Connor Hall, who has been scoring for fun for David Lee’s Under-23s. The 19-year-old made his debut in the FA Cup against Huddersfield Town and has been knocking on the door of the first team squad for some weeks.

Wanderers missed out on Ipswich’s David McGoldrick and Charlton’s Josh Magennis on deadline day and remain in the market for out of contract players.

How urgently they search may depend on whether Parkinson’s side can follow-up the encouraging win over Bristol City – and if the half a dozen options at his disposal can show there really is life after Gary Madine.

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MartinBWFC

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El Hadji Diouf
El Hadji Diouf
Fucking hell he's gone so why is our local rag banging on about him on a daily basis, embarrassing.

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