West Ham United prospect Oladapo Afolayan sent David Moyes a reminder of his potential while making his Bolton Wanderers debut on Tuesday night.
Afolayan moved to the University of Bolton Stadium on loan for the remainder of the season in a late Deadline Day deal earlier this month, for his third taste of action outside of east London following previous spells with Oldham Athletic and Mansfield Town.
The 23-year-old forward had made his long-awaited senior Irons debut with a goalscoring cameo appearance in the FA Cup in January, coming off the bench to fire home in the 4-0 rout of Doncaster Rovers.
Bolton boss Ian Evatt sought to afford Afolayan his Wanderers debut at the first available opportunity, by fielding the London-born attacker for the final half an hour of his side’s League Two meeting with Morecambe on Tuesday.
The 5 ft 10 centre-forward was unable to add to his goalscoring record against the Shrimps, who fought back to salvage a point late in the day, but left boss Evatt mightily impressed by what he had been able to bring to the table.
“Dapo is magic, a talented boy,” Evatt said, via quotes by The Bolton News. “You saw glimpses, but it’s a shame we didn’t see them in full flow, really, Madders [Marcus Maddison] and Dapo, because they were brought on to win us the game, to extend the lead and kill the game off, and they combined quite quickly for the chance that was saved.”
Afolayan picked up possession deep in Morecambe territory just minutes after coming off the bench and found Maddison on the edge of the box, but the 27-year-old – who would be shown a straight red card for a lunging tackle on Aaron Wildig – could only force a save from Kyle Letheren.
Maddison’s red card meant Bolton were forced to be more defensive in the closing stages yet Afolayan still created chances to demonstrate his potential, ending his half an hour on the pitch with three successful dribbles to his name from three attempts, per SofaScore.
He additionally completed 85% of his passes with only two of 13 balls going astray, which is vastly superior to Michail Antonio’s efforts in the Premier League this term with the 30-year-old only completing 64% of his attempts for just 9.5 accurate passes a game, per SofaScore.
Antonio additionally only completes 50% of his dribbles for 1.5 a game, but is now Moyes’ only available senior centre-forward after opting against signing a striker to replace Sebastien Haller during the winter transfer market.
Now, with Antonio also a potential doubt for Monday’s clash with Sheffield United, Afolayan’s performance will only send a message back to the London Stadium that he could have been worth giving a chance over the remainder of the campaign.