Goalkeeper: Jason Steele
I fully expect Simon Grayson to stick by Jason Steele yet again for this game, despite the former Boro man turning in yet another horrendous performance on Saturday against Bristol City.
Grayson spoke with the press about Steele and the stick he’s been receiving in the wake of the defeat, making some truly baffling remarks about his continued selection of a player that is clearly in very poor form:
I think all the players should be getting stick because we’re not getting results. For Steeley it might be a little bit unfair.
He made a great save in the second half, he’s not been at fault for either goal, he’s trying to make decisions in terms of when to kick it and when not to because sometimes you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
I see three goalkeepers train every day and at this moment in time he’s the better one for us.
I understand that a manager has to protect his players, but that last comment about the other two goalkeepers just angers me. What a ridiculous thing to say - if I were Robbin Ruiter I’d be looking for the nearest exit as January approaches us.
Left Back: Bryan Oviedo
Bryan Oviedo was my man of the match on Saturday and is one of the only players to have emerged from the performance with any credit. He’ll start again at left back, hopefully building upon the relationship that he’s striking up down our left hand side with Aiden McGeady.
Centre Back: John O’Shea
O’Shea probably should have done better for Bristol’s second goal on Saturday but in truth, he’ll likely retain his spot as the alternatives are grim. There wasn’t a centre half on the bench for the game at the weekend and with no real idea of when Marc Wilson and Tyias Browning will be back fit and in the squad, it’s unlikely that Grayson will make any rash changes to the centre of our defence - even if we are conceding goals for fun.
Centre Back: Lamine Kone
Like with John O’Shea, Lamine Kone’s place in the side is basically guaranteed tonight because the alternative to playing him at centre half is Billy Jones or Jack Rodwell.
Right Back: Adam Matthews
Billy Jones was terrible again on Saturday and it was his truly awful positioning that had our defence all at sea when Bristol managed to score the clincher. I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t have started that game beforehand but he did, and we predictably suffered as a result. Surely Grayson won’t be as foolish again tonight, particularly as Adam Matthews has done very little wrong so far this season and offers us so much more from an attacking perspective?
Central Midfield: Didier Ndong
Like Oviedo, I thought Didier Ndong did quite well against Bristol. And tonight, in a game where we’re going to need to be physical in the centre of the park, we’ll benefit greatly from having Ndong’s ball-winning capabilities.
Central Midfield: Lee Cattermole
Karl Henry and Darren Pratley are two of the biggest sh*thouses in the league and we’ll need to combat that somewhat tonight if we’re going to emerge with anything. Personally I’d play Paddy McNair, but you just know Cattermole will be back in the side - mainly as playing Darron Gibson again would amount to footballing suicide.
Central Midfield: Jonny Williams
Williams needs a run of games in the side so that he can truly show us what he’s capable of. I thought he was fairly average against Bristol City but he’s on a comeback back from injury and needs to build up his fitness and, most importantly, confidence.
It was refreshing to hear Williams speak out in the wake of the game about his own personal feelings on our situation, showing he cares at least.
Left Midfield: Aiden McGeady
I say this every week, but it remains true - Aiden McGeady is our best player and he must start when he’s fit.
Right Midfield: Duncan Watmore
Playing to Watmore’s strengths for once would be a start. What is the point in humping it long to him? Surely the correct tactic would be to get Jonny Williams on the ball as much as possible in order to play Watmore in behind slow, tiring defenders?
To be honest I’d take a bit of a risk if I was Grayson, and I’d play Callum McManaman instead, bringing Watmore on late in the game in order to stretch Bolton. He won’t do that, but it’s just an idea that I think could work.
Centre Forward: Lewis Grabban
I thought he was pretty dreadful on Saturday but he scored, and that’s important - if a striker can put the ball away, even when they aren’t playing at their best, then its a good sign. Like Watmore, we just need to stop trying to play it long to him because it’s clear he’s not very good in the air. Get it to his feet and let him run at defenders - that’s when he’s at his best.