Marcus Braddock looks ahead to Sunday's trip to Bolton
The last time we played Bolton was a couple of seasons ago and we lost both games as the Trotters followed Sheffield United into the Championship. Since then, the fortunes of both those clubs couldn't be more diverse with United becoming the toast of the Premier League and Wanderers rooted to the bottom of League One. The reasons for their low position is a 12 point deduction for entering financial administration, which is always sad to see from a fans point of view. Obviously the lack of finances is also a contributory factor to their league position and as sad as it is, this is a pattern we've seen before in this division. Like Icarus, as clubs attempt to fly ever higher, they diminish their means for staying there and end up passing us as they fall.
As we already know, the impact of their financial punishments has been that relegation is almost certain but for a superhuman effort that on current form seems unlikely. The early weeks of the season saw them lose or draw pretty much every game until September when they started to draw more than they lost. This seems to have roughly coincided with new owners arriving and appointing Keith Hill as manager with Wanderers suffering just five defeats in their fifteen games since then. They've also kept five clean sheets since Hill arrived, as opposed to just one before his arrival.
The Trotters have six points so far in SkyBet League One which includes the 12 point deduction, so even without the deduction, they would still be in the bottom three by two points. However, if looked at over the last eight games, Bolton's form is actually better than our own by two points with a 50% win record and only a couple of defeats. Their last two of games have seen them win 3-2 at home to Southend and then draw 0-0 at Sunderland on Boxing Day in League One.
They've been pretty good at home since October, losing just once, in the F.A. Cup against Plymouth and beating the likes of Fleetwood, Man City Under 21's and Milton Keynes. The one major blip for Hill's Bolton was the 7-1 demolition they suffered at the hands of Accrington which was a reminder of some of the heavy defeats before Hill arrived although the Trotters were down to ten men after a quarter of an hour when defender Josh Earl was sent off.
Top scorer for Bolton is 36-year-old Irishman Daryl Murphy with six goals since joining them in September. The 6'2 striker has had successful spells in England with Ipswich, where he scored 50 times in 133 games and more recently with Notts Forest, where he scored thirteen times in 60 games between July 2017 and closed season 2019.
Top on assists for Bolton is 28-year-old Doncaster Loan midfielder Ali Crawford, who has three after just 9 games since joining in September. Crawford started his career with Hamilton where he made over 200 appearances and scored almost 40 goals. He made the move to England in 2018 when he Joined Doncaster but he's not been a regular starter at the Keepmoat Stadium and opted for game-time at Bolton. Sadly, he's been sidelined since last October, which leaves striker Joe Dodoo who has two assists so far this season.
The 24-year-old striker was signed in October and has two goals to add to his two assists from thirteen games in all competitions. The ex-Leicester City trainee has also spent time with Rangers, Charlton and Blackpool since arriving in the U.K. from Ghana aged eight.
Michael Salisbury from Lancashire. Games this season: 19. Yellow cards: 58. Red cards: 8
Neither manager has reported any fresh injury concerns. Ollie Norburn still is getting over a bug and might not feature.
Sam Ricketts has mentioned his fondness for Bolton, having spent four years there, he's also cautioned against complacency, given their recent problems.
This is going to be a much more difficult game than it may have been if we'd played Bolton earlier this season but it won't be the first time a team has had an injection of cash partway through the season. I have a feeling that the next time we play Bolton, it may be a fair a bit more difficult again, with a transfer window about to open. However, the current reality is that we can expect a tough game against a hard-working team that will give very little away.