Up and running with an opening day victory over Southend United and boosted over the past week via the addition of a new striker, this upcoming game against Bolton Wanderers is an opportunity to keep the momentum going and help this new-look team grow into the new season.
The caveat is whether this upcoming game against Bolton Wanderers actually goes ahead. With less than 48 hours (at the time of writing) until the game is due to kick-off, Bolton are yet to make tickets for the game available with the club still in administration and with a prospective takeover of the club seemingly hanging in the balance.
Provided there is a game to be played, the availability of new signing, Matt Godden, and the possible return to fitness of Jamie Allen provides Mark Robins with additional options for a team that pretty much picked itself last week.
Assuming Allen is fit, just who he replaces, if anyone, in central midfield presents Mark Robins with a selection headache. After Jordan Shipley and Zain Westbrooke impressed last week with their dynamism in those two more advanced central midfield positions, it would be harsh to drop either. Of the two, Westbrooke probably had the better game and will he hoping to press a claim for more regular football in the wake of Tom Bayliss’ departure and the failure to lure Bright Enobakhare back to the club.
Although it seems unlikely that Matt Godden will be fit enough to start this game – having missed much of Peterborough United’s pre-season – his addition should be the signal to Amadou Bakayoko that his place in the side is not guaranteed anymore. As handy as Bakayoko’s energy can be, allying that with quality and a presence in the final third is going to be crucial now that there is genuine competition for his place.
Last Time We Met
Our last meeting with Bolton Wanderers is perhaps better known as ‘whistle-gate’. In Russell Slade’s first home game as manager, off the back of adding Stuart Beavon and Callum Reilly to the squad as his first pieces of transfer business, there was hope that this was where the fight for survival would begin.
Beavon, in particular, made an impressive start to his Coventry City career, giving the hulking centre-back duo of David Wheater and Mark Beevers something of a run around as he assisted Marcus Tudgay for the opening goal and then put the Sky Blues back ahead via an emphatic finish in the second-half.
In retrospect, it was all a bit too good to be true. The Bolton pressure began to build, then during a key phase of the build-up to a late equaliser, a whistle in the crowd was blown (a remnant from a protest against SISU in the previous home game), seeming to cause Ruben Lameiras and Callum Reilly to hesitate at a key interval before a Bolton cross was sent into the box and Max Clayton tied things up.
Or perhaps, it was simply a piece of bad defending.
Manager – Phil Parkinson
As someone who won promotion and kept the club in the Championship against the odds, relegation last season has heavily dented Phil Parkinson’s standing among Bolton fans in spite of the testing circumstances that he has been managing in for almost the entirety of his reign.
The criticism of Phil Parkinson concerns his direct style of play, while he isn’t exactly the most progressive and forward-thinking of managers, his record at League One level should speak for itself. Presuming everything sorts itself out off-the-pitch over the next few weeks, Bolton would have a hard time finding a manager better suited to keeping them up this season and getting them back into the Championship in the not too distant future.
Who To Look Out For?
As it stands, Phil Parkinson has a squad of just eight players over the age of 21 to pick from. While there are a handful of Championship quality senior pros to pick from, the rest of the starting XI and bench are youth-team players who wouldn’t be anywhere near men’s football in normal circumstances.
If there is one clear danger-man for Bolton, it is Erhun Oztumer. Although as a diminutive technical player, his decision to move to a side managed by Phil Parkinson last summer has to be questioned, right now, his manager has no option but to build the team he has around him. Getting everyone else to focus on defending and hoping Oztumer can pull a moment of magic out of nowhere could be an effective tactic for Bolton in this game.
Of Bolton’s other senior players, Luke Murphy and Jason Lowe are key figures in central midfield, providing the defensive protection for an incredibly inexperienced back-line, while in Remi Matthews and Ben Alnwick in goal, Bolton have surprisingly strong options to pick from given the circumstances.
Of the raw youngsters called up to first-team duty, centre-back Yoan (brother of Kurt) Zouma impressed last week in his aerial dominance over Wycombe’s Adebayo Akinfenwa, while winger Denis Politic is a livewire who had attracted interest from Norwich City over the summer.
Areas To Exploit
It seems harsh eyeing up potential areas to exploit given the current situation at Bolton, however, the youthful and make-shift nature of their squad is a clear area of an advantage for us. While they held out Wycombe fairly impressively for 55 minutes last week, they registered just three shots on goal against Wycombe’s 25 and conceded a pretty calamitous opening goal owing to a lack of communication at the back.
The main thing to be wary of here is that Bolton have absolutely nothing to lose in this game while we have little to win. As a team ourselves that is still coming together and lacking fluency, were we to fall behind in this game, we could have a hard time salvaging a result. Presuming the game goes ahead, anything other than a win will be a big opportunity to pick up three points lost.