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Match Preview: Ipswich Town v. Bolton Wanderers

Michael Steele

Bolton Wanderers will take their blistering run of form on a long journey to Ipswich Town's Portman Road this weekend. They'll have to care of that form though, wrapping it in blankets, feeding it, and generally caring for it as they hope to gain ground on promotion rivals. Midweek results went Bolton's way and the two teams directly above them (Brighton and Nottingham Forest) have tough games. Now is the time to climb the table.

That said, this game should not be taken for granted or marked down as a nailed-on win for the men in white. As we wrote yesterday (and strongly suggest you take a minute to read it), Ipswich Town have a bit of history cooling down the hot teams in the division this season. They've stopped excellent runs of form when facing Cardiff City, Nottingham Forest, Millwall, and, earlier in the season, Bolton Wanderers.

There are no fresh injury concerns for the men in white and Adam Bogdan is in contention for a return to the starting XI but many would feel Andy Lonergan would be hard done by that, especially after keeping consecutive clean sheets. The Hungarian goalkeeper has officially returned to training following an injury layoff thanks to a pesky groin.

Ipswich Town will be without striker Frank Nouble, who is set to miss the match with a hamstring injury picked up against Peterborough. Anthony Wadsworth and Paul Taylor continue their extended injury absences. Richard Stearman, on loan to the Tractor Boys from Wolves is returning from his time away due to suspension and club captain Carlos Edwards has shaken off his groin injury. Lee Martin is serving a suspension after being shown read against Nottingham Forest.

The Blues are only two spots and four points clear of the drop zone at the moment. Ipswich have only won one of their last five games, beating Leicester City at the start of march. They are coming directly off a 0-0 draw against Peterborough following a 1-0 loss away at Nottingham Forest.

Dougie Freedman has a number of options to go with this weekend, especially given that the team has had a week off for the first time in a month. Jay Spearing and Darren Pratley have both been excellent in the center of the park of late while Zat Knight and Craig Dawson are bossing it at the back. Bolton's issues against Brighton & Hove Albion last week came from the wings with Sam Ricketts and Marcos Alonso having largely poor defensive matches. Tyrone Mears has been out of the team for a few weeks with a "blood infection" but this could be the opportunity for him to return to the side.

Chris Eagles, who has been taking up the Mark Davies role behind the strikers, had a very lively first half against the Seagulls but was quiet after the break but could easily start again as he looks to rebuild the confidence that saw him be an absolute menace at the start of this season. Stu Holden has made Bolton's bench for three of the last four games but hasn't seen any minutes since he played 67 against Peterborough. Trotters fans are dying to see the American in action again.

The manager seems to have the utmost faith in his side and issued a very strong statement on the club's official website:

"We are good; we are very strong right now. We have had a few days off to rest, there were a few tired muscles last weekend but we have rested well and there are no new injuries on the
treatment table which is nice to see and we are raring to go on Saturday.

"We are coming up against teams fighting for their lives now so we have to use our heads and not play emotionally and hopefully that is what we have been doing in the last few weeks.

"We played Barnsley a fortnight ago and it was a physical and very difficult game but we kept our nerve at the right time and we didn't play with any emotion. We were ruthless at the right times so it is an indication how it is going to be.

"I have full respect for Ipswich Town as a club and I respect their manager hugely in terms of what he does with his team.

"I always go into games regardless if we are off the back of a win or a defeat having prepared the best way we possibly can.

"We have had a good week, the lads are fresh, we have worked on our tactics ahead of the game and we are raring to go.

"I am looking forward to seeing how far we have come since the last time we played Ipswich Town where I thought we played very well for 75 minutes but we fell apart for 15 minutes.

"It will be interesting to see how far we have come, not only with the result but in terms of our performance and our attitude towards playing the game and I am looking forward to the game."

The match referee is Stuart Atwell. He last officiated Bolton's 1-2 away win at Blackburn in November.