After six long days, and a fairly pointless round of mid-week internationals, it is time for another league match. Let's get the numbers out of the way first. Barnsley are 21st in the table, four spots behind Bolton, who are 17th. In 16 matches, Barnsley have only scored 15 goals. That is eight less than the Wanderers. Fortunately, they have conceded almost as many, 24. Bolton have only lost one of their last six matches, and Dougie Freedman is undefeated so far, with five points from his three games in charge. Barnsley, on the other hand, have lost their last four, allowing eight goals while scoring only one.
Bolton do seem to be on the upswing, with improved play over the last six matches finally allowing them to put some points up and move towards the upper reaches of the table, albeit slowly. Barnsley have gone in the opposite direction. The poor form of clubs such as Bristol City (seven losses in a row), Peterborough (five losses in seven), and Ipswich Town (two wins in their last 14) is all that is keeping Barnsley out of the relegation zone.
The Tykes do have some players Bolton supporters will recognize. The potato-headed fellow is not Wayne Rooney (obviously), but his younger brother John. Marlon Harewood was a thorn in Bolton's side when he played for West Ham United. Mido is back from Egypt, and still has a lot of hair.
The players and Mr. Freedman have had another week of training to get to know each other, and it will be very interesting to see the continued evolution of the squad. Some players are establishing themselves, while others appear to be on shaky ground. I don't believe that either fullback Dougie has used is a long-term solution, but he seems to be pretty settled on his back line. It will likely be Samuel Ricketts, Zat Knight, Matt Mills, and Stephen Warnock.
The midfield is a bit more fluid. Keith Andrews will shield the back four, and Mark Davies will feature, but where is uncertain. He has played a defensive holding role as well as an attacking support role in the last two weeks. Freedman's choice for him affects several other players, most notably Jay Spearing and Darren Pratley. If Davies attacks, the Liverpool loanee will start. If Davies is in a defensive role, the former Swansea man will most likely return to the starting XI.
Chris Eagles will start on one wing, with either Chung-Yong Lee or Martin Petrov opposite him. Freedman seems to be almost rotating the two. They will all be working in support of a single forward, most likely David Ngog. Kevin Davies continued pouting on the sub's bench and whinging to the press will make it somewhat more difficult for those wanting to write articles praising his loyalty and work ethic.
This is a side that can score goals, and most likely will on Saturday. The question, as usual, is whether the defense can hold the other side to less goals than we score. Barnsley haven't score din three matches, so I can just about guarantee that they will get one n the first five minutes. Bolton have fought back before under Dougie, so don't panic too soon. Just remember, there will be goals.