The Bolton Wanderers earned their first away point of the season last weekend, in a scrappy but vital 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday. The buzzword this season - momentum - will once again be ringing in every Wanderer's ear, as Owen Coyle's boys desperately hope to build it at home to Crystal Palace. The Eagles sit just below Bolton in the table, separated only by goal difference, which makes this match that much more important. The good news is that Bolton are on their way to re-creating Fortress Reebok this season, having taken 7 points out of a possible 9 so far this season. This match and the following home clash against Leeds United in just 4 days could really cement that for the rest of the season.
Crystal Palace started out the season with 3 losses, but their form has drastically improved in the month of September, picking up 3 wins and a draw. This is manager Dougie Freedman's second season full season in charge, after he took over January 2011. Similarly to Bolton, Crystal Palace is aiming to build confidence. Their comeback to win 3-2 after being down 2-0 against Cardiff will have done a lot to help that, with all 3 goals scored in the second half by forward Glenn Murray.
This strength in the second half could prove deadly against Bolton, who have a bad habit of conceding directly after the halftime break. Last match Bolton showed more back bone, going on to win the match in spite of conceding after halftime, which will be important this match.
After a very long time of not knowing the best way to deploy his starting 11, Coyle seems to be settling into the 4-4-2 in an effective way. For the most part, Kevin Davies and David Ngog have proved a good pair up front, SKD having found the form of past seasons when his team needs him. The back four may be seeing a bit of change as left-back Marcos Alonso has picked up a knock, a blow after scoring the opening goal last weekend. New signing Stephen Warnock could be receiving his debut, and an all-important chance to establish himself at Bolton.
The midfield should see some continuity, especially considering that Mark Davies put in his first decent performance of the season last match, and Jay Spearing earned our man of the match award. Keith Andrews also put in a solid show, while Chris Eagles once again provided endless offensive opportunities from his new favoured spot on the left wing.
It will be a tough match, with both teams seeking to prove to themselves and to fans that this season will not be determined by a poor start. It could be quite high scoring given Crystal Palace's propensity for goals, both scored and conceded this season, which means Bolton's fragile confidence will be coming under the magnifying glass in a very serious way. This is an important test, and if Bolton pass it, I'll be ready to believe they can achieve things this season.