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Match Preview: Bolton Wanderers v Middlesbrough

A well-earned point on Saturday is swiftly followed by a clash with yet another Championship promotion favourite as Wanderers host Middlesbrough on Tuesday night.

Joe Mason has provided Wanderers a much-needed goal threat
Joe Mason has provided Wanderers a much-needed goal threat
Michael Steele

After picking up their first point and scoring their first league goals of the season with a 2-2 draw over Nottingham Forest on Saturday, Bolton Wanderers' tricky start to the season continues as they host Middlesbrough FC on Tuesday evening.

Saturday's draw showed signs of promise from Bolton, as they looked to put the nightmare 3-0 season opener at Watford behind them. The addition of Joe Mason to the squad saw Dougie Freedman revert to a 4-4-2 diamond formation that is much better suited to the players available and, of course, gets the best out of Mason by pairing him with another striker.

One problem with this formation, however, is that it makes it very difficult for Freedman to select Liam Feeney, who has looked like our best, most dangerous player so far this season. It removes the wide role that Feeney is so adept in, and he isn't really able to play up front or in the hole between the strikers.

Wanderers will be looking to build on their first point for the visit of the North East side, and there are certainly positives for Whites fans. Mason and Craig Davies looked a promising partnership against Forest - Mason is clearly a goal threat and could be the 20-goals a season poacher we've needed for the last 10 years. While if Davies can get a run of games under his belt then it could only be a matter of time before he starts scoring. He gets in the right positions, he's big and strong and just needs confidence to bang the goals in. His late miss against Forest is a perfect example of this.

The biggest concern for Whites fans has to be our defence which, despite being strengthened over the summer, has already leaked seven goals in three matches this season. Freedman has to make it more difficult for teams to score against us and the players need to start getting the basics right. The marking on Britt Assombalonga's first goal for Forest was non-existent, while Spearing's ridiculous foul on Assombalonga to gift them a penalty when he was running away from goal was nothing short of idiotic.

The Trotters' visitors on Tuesday night suffered a disappointing and controversial 1-0 defeat at Leeds on the weekend, after striker Albert Adomah's acrobatic attempt was inexplicably ruled out for 'dangerous play.' Boro have undoubted quality in their side and could hand a full debut to new signing Adam Clayton at the Macron, but I fancy Bolton's chances of picking up their first three points of the season tomorrow night.

New boss Aitor Karanka, a Real Madrid stalwart and former assistant to Jose Mourinho, has added some Spanish flair in the form of defenders Damia, striker Kike and ex-Madrid goalkeeper Tomas Mejias, as well as Guinean midfielder Emilio Nsue from Murcia. Boro go into the match without former England defender Jonathan Woodgate who hardly unsurprisingly, has picked up a hamstring injury, but the lively Adomah has to be the man to watch for Wanderers' defence.

Wanderers are likely to line up with the same 11 that started against Forest as Freedman looks to build confidence in his preferred starters.

Probable Starting XI:


McNaughton     Mills      Wheater      Ream

Medo             Spearing               Lee


Mason    C Davies