Nathan Blake backs two striker policy at Bolton Wanderers
EX-WANDERERS star Nathan Blake believes two heads will prove much better than one for Dougie Freedman if he intends to steer the club away from relegation danger in the Championship.
Fans are calling for the Whites boss to stick with Joe Mason and Lukas Jutkiewicz up front for today’s Lancashire derby with Blackburn Rovers, after their dazzling display against Watford seven days ago.
On the opposite side – Gary Bowyer is expected to name Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes in attack as Rovers continue their hunt for a play-off spot.
Blake reckons there is little to choose between the front pairings on show in the quality stakes but he thinks the intelligence of Mason combined with the physicality of Jutkiewicz could be just the right mix for Wanderers to lift themselves up the table.
“When you hit on a good partnership it’s worth its weight in gold,” he told The Bolton News. “Sometimes it can compensate for weaknesses elsewhere.
“Going back to my time, me and John McGinlay put 50 goals on the board but, thankfully, we also had a solid defence as well.
“There are times when you are on the rack and teams are coming at you – but by having a pair of players up front who know each other’s game, it can get you points when you don’t always deserve them.”
Freedman has come under fire at times from his own supporters for persisting with a solitary recognised striker, most notably during Mason’s first loan spell at the Reebok.
Blake feels there is certainly a time and a place for the Scot’s system to work but thinks the form of the two front men should come before tactics.
“Sometimes you need to play one up top and pack midfield,” he said. “Colin Todd used to play me there when McGinlay was injured and the key to it is having midfielders that are willing to run on and get past you into the penalty box.
“We had people like Alan Thompson or Per Frandsen that would bomb on and give you something to play at.
“When I watched Bolton play against Cardiff in the cup earlier this year I felt there wasn’t enough penetration there.
All the football was being played in front of the Cardiff defence and they were never feeling under any pressure.
“It’s not right to have a system and just say to your players “play it” – there has to be flexibility and the players need to buy into it. To an extent, so do the fans.
“I’d like to think that in a game as important as this one, between two local rivals, that Bolton would want to be the aggressor. They want to be on the front foot and go for three points at home.”
Blackburn’s chief goal threat Rhodes has dried up a little of late, failing to score in his last eight games. He remains in Blake’s view one of the Championship’s classiest front men but in Mason, the Welshman believes Wanderers have a player who could match him stride for stride.
“Joe is behind Rhodes in terms of his finishing, for sure, but his footballing brain is amazing and he’s worth a lot more to the team,” he said.
“Bolton need to utilise him. I was surprised to hear he’d been playing up front on his own because in my mind that doesn’t get the best out of him.
“He’ll love playing alongside someone like Jutkiewicz and picking up the scraps, making runs. And I think Bolton will benefit.
“I wouldn’t like to put my money on exactly who’ll win – but I’d love to see Joe get a goal, that’s for sure.”