After another dour home draw against AFC Wimbledon, Bolton Wanderers' promotion charge had lost all momentum. After the poor performance at the Macron, players and fans were confronting each other on social media and a notable off the field incident meant it was a weekend to forget for Parkinson and his Wanderers players.
Saturday’s game with League One’s form side Fleetwood Town offered Bolton the perfect opportunity to move on from their current slump and despite the size of the task ahead of them, not to mention the sizable support headed to Highbury, there was a feeling that Bolton could pull off something special.
The importance of this fixture added a great deal to it and when the Wanderers XI was announced, there were two very notable inclusions. Firstly, Bolton used the team sheet as an opportunity to announce the one-month deal for former Reading captain Jem Karacan, as he took a place on the bench. Perhaps more eye-opening was the shock inclusion of Darren Pratley who returned as captain to add his dynamism into the Wanderers midfield as Bolton kept to their 5-3-2 formation.
The feeling amongst fans was one of rejuvenation, not to say that Pratley was a returning saviour but perhaps simply someone who could shuffle the pack and kickstart Wanderers’ promotion push.
Whether it was Pratley’s inclusion or not, Bolton certainly started well and were in the lead early on as Adam le Fondre found the far corner from out wide. There has been some debate as to whether the Wanderers front man meant his effort from distance but who gives a fuck really, Bolton had a crucial early lead.
With the wind in their sails following Le Fondre’s screamer, Bolton continued to push on and within minutes had doubled their lead as David Wheater converted from a Felipe Morais deadball for his sixth league goal this season.
Bolton were flying and their hefty away following were in dreamland but they were pegged back quickly as Kyle Dempsey fired home past a hapless Ben Alnwick. Bolton teams of the past could have easily have crumbled in this position away from home but there is a resoluteness to this side at this season and they rarely give goals away cheaply.
Bolton held firm to half time as the green shoots of recovery began to show for Phil Parkinson’s Bolton following their recent dip in form. Neither side made any changes at half time.
Bolton got their second half off to a flyer as the outstanding Felipe Morais grabbed a second assist. The former Bradford winger whipped in a deadly accurate free kick which was tapped home by Wanderers centre half Mark Beevers to give Bolton a two-goal lead for the second time in the game.
Despite lengthy periods of possession for the hosts it seemed impotent as Bolton’s defence was shored up. Wanderers were rejuvenated in midfield with the hard work of the returning Darren Pratley who put in an impressive 80 minutes on his return in such a vital game.
From here on in it seemed that Bolton would cruise to a vital away win but there was to be a late flurry of action. Felipe Morias was to cap off his near-perfect performance was a pinpoint cross from a difficult position to allow Adam le Fondre to head home his second in front of the jubilant Wanderers support. It was a great a header and a real icing on the cake for an afternoon that couldn’t really get any better for Bolton.
It wasn’t to be the end of the scoring though as Fleetwood added a consolation late on but the afternoon was Bolton’s as they closed the gap on 2nd place Fleetwood to just one point with a game in hand on their rivals.
Have Bolton got their momentum back?