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Match Preview: Bolton Wanderers v Peterborough United

Last time these two sides met we saw a nine-goal thriller. This time I am sure both managers would prefer far less drama, and Dougie Freedman surely sees a good chance to get three more points on the board and an unlikely playoff run off the ground.

Bolton lost their bearings last time they played Peterborough
Bolton lost their bearings last time they played Peterborough
Charlie Crowhurst

Last time these two clubs met, Peterborough were bottom of the table and Bolton were not too far above them in the mid-teens. Neither side was looking great defensively, but no one could have predicted the nine goals that were scored. Bolton supporters surely do not want to relive that beautiful disaster, but hopefully the defenders have learned a lot since then.

First, the logistics. The match is at the Reebok, Bolton's second straight home match. The trotters are currently 15th in the table, with 42 points from 33 matches. They have scored 49 goals and conceded 47, the first time they have enjoyed a positive differential in ages. The table looks far grimmer for Posh. They have 33 points from 32 matches, a -10 goal differential, and sit bottom of the table, four points from safety.

How one feels going into this game largely depends upon how one views that 5-4 roller coaster ride. If you consider it to be a one-off, a fluke, an epic disaster that will never be repeated and should never be spoken off again, then you have reason to be confident heading into the return fixture Tuesday night. I myself took this approach when evaluating possible centre back pairings a few weeks ago. However, if you consider that match to be indicative of a troublesome match-up for Bolton, or evidence of glaring weaknesses the club has done little more than paper over, then you are fearful of another embarrassing defeat, this time in front of an often unforgiving home crowd

Peterborough will be facing a very different team this week from the one they defeated back in December. Back then, Bolton played a 4-2-3-1, which seemed appropriate at the time. Now, Freedman is likely to maintain the flexible 4-4-2 he used on Saturday.

There will be two changes in the back line for the Whites. Stephen Warnock started at left back that day, and he will be replaced by Marcos Alonso. Sam Ricketts partnered Zat Knight, and that duty will now fall to Craig Dawson. There is a decent chance that David Wheater, just recently returned from a nine month injury layoff, will eventually unseat Knight, but Tuesday comes too soon for him. Ricketts started at right back Saturday, but unless there is an undisclosed injury I would expect Tyrone Mears to retrieve that shirt for the midweek runout.

The central midfield last time was made up off Keith Andrews, Jay Spearing, and Jacob Butterfield. Andrews is out, and Butterfield is no longer at the club. Jay Spearing will start again, and Darren Pratley would be hard to drop after a series of decent performances. As for Mark Davies, going into last Tuesday's trip to Derby County, I thought he was not physically ready to play two 90 minute matches in four days. Dougie Freedman agreed with me, although Davies was on the sub's bench. This seems likely to happen again. With Stu Holden, Josh Vela, and Medo Kamara all unable to play 90 minutes at this point, we could see Chris Eagles or Steve de Ridder return to the team.

Kevin Davies started by himself up top in the first match against Posh, but Bolton scored their goals when Marvin Sordell and Benik Afobe (yes, that Benik Afobe) came on in the second half and changed the game with their pace and trickery. Sordell is likely to retain his starting spot, and the partnership with David Ngog looked promising on Saturday.

I'm usually not an optimist when it comes to these things, but given Wanderers' recent form, their performance on Saturday, Peterborough's position in the table, and their overall record this season, I am expecting a very good, if not great performance from Bolton, and a tidy three points in the end.