"Wanderers in that happy valley"
Time to put the trials and tribulations of League One aside for a few days and consider the magic of the original cup competition. It has been quite some time since we graced the 3rd round and went into the cloth bag with the big and glamorous clubs … Liverpool, Man Utd., Man City, Bolton Wanderers(?) well, you can’t have everything, and their supporters probably feel the same level of let-down that we do.
Since being promoted out of our division the season before last The Trotters have found it increasingly difficult to keep their heads above water, and they currently languish in the Championship relegation zone 3 points below the line and Rotherham United. Even their signing of the Turkish Messi has not meant much, although he did score for them in the defeat at Leeds in the EFL Cup - but he has been used sparingly in the league games by manager Phil Parkinson. Wanderers’ current Championship form, for what it’s worth:-
8 Dec Norwich City (A) Lost 3-2
15 Dec Leeds United (H) Lost 0-1
22 Dec Brentford (A) Lost 1-0
26 Dec Rotherham Utd (H) Won 2-1
29 Dec Stoke City (H) Drew 0-0
1 Jan Hull City (A) Lost 6-0
In 26 Championship games so far this season Wanderers have scored a measly 17 goals, which is by some distance the lowest in their league. Josh Magennis is top scorer with 4, followed by Sammy Ameobi with 3. They do, however, have at least a partial appetite for Midlands clubs, having beaten Birmingham City at home and West Brom at the Hawthorns earlier this season.
Dean Keates would seem to have more options at his disposal than for some time - although Josh Ginnelly has left, we have a reportedly fit Matt Jarvis available, plus new Belgian acquisition Omar Mussa. The Charlton game saw Joe Edwards in action for over 70 minutes, and Matt Jarvis had the chance to analyse our performance from the stands.
The outcome of this game might depend (more than most) on which team “turns up” on the day. Bearing current form in mind, neither side can be expected to be full of confidence - and the Trotters may well consider Championship survival to be more important than this Cup Competition. Although we have been on the receiving end of some recent defeats and last-minute draws, the quality of Saddlers’ football has been pleasing and positive - the difficulty lies in the spontaneous 10-minute spells of switching off and thereby shipping a couple…
Prediction? This really is a game we can go out and win, even though Phil Parkinson will have read the riot act to his squad following the cave-in at Hull. We won’t keep a clean sheet, but Bolton’s existing goal difference of -21 gives us enough scope to net a couple. So a 1-2 away win please, with Andy Cook and Luke Leahy on target.