15 games into the season and Wanderers find themselves in 19th place and teetering precariously over the relegation trap door. Despite a trailblazing start, a disastrous run of form has seen Phil Parkinson’s men pick up a solitary point from their 5 fixtures in October.
With ill-judged notes from the Chairman fuelling the fans’ anger just two days ahead of a crucial clash with Hull City, more unnecessary pressure was heaped on Phil Parkinson and the players as they attempted to arrest the winless run last time out. Maybe the chairman thought it was what the fans wanted to hear, maybe he wanted a reaction on the pitch, either way it didn’t work, as we suffered another disappointing home defeat and the discontent of the Bolton faithful, was cranked up a notch.
Of course, I appreciate there are mixed opinions on the chairman, the manager and the players, but irrespective of your stand point, the manager is absolutely correct when he says we have to stick together and put all our efforts into supporting the football club. A more fruitful points return is needed and needed quickly, so where better to start than a trip to Villa Park on Friday night, in front of the Sky TV cameras? Well it’s certainly not inconceivable.
Currently lying 17th in the table and just two points better off than Bolton, Villa have picked up just 3 points from a possible 12 and have lost to QPR, Norwich and Millwall in the process. Since ‘cabbage-gate’ and the sacking of Steve Bruce at the beginning of October, new manager, Dean Smith’s only success came in a 1-0 win against Swansea City, who Bolton will host next time out at the Unibol.
Villa are likely to set up with a 5-3-1-1 formation, with irritant Jack Grealish in an evasive free role around top scorers Tammy Abraham and Jonathan Kodjia. They’ll attack with pace, which scares the shit out of me, but at the other end they have also shipped a fair few goals with half coming from set pieces. I expect us to have limited possession and we’ll need to take our chances if we are to get anything from the game.
Last time out, Parky made a plethora of changes to his starting Xi and its nigh on impossible to predict his latest serving of hokey cokey, squad rotation here, In the middle of the park, I expect Jason Lowe to come back in and sit just in front of the back line, with Joe Williams, after a fine display at the weekend, being given the role to snap at Jack Grealish’s ankles all game. Villa struggle at the back with tricky little players and we have one of those in our ranks with Ozzie, so I hope he gets his chance. I’m also hoping we retain a more attacking line up and at least cause them a few problems, rather than just sitting deep.
It may be a week too soon for Sammy Ameobi to get the call up and former Villa man Stephen Ireland is also continuing to make good progress on the fitness front, but it’s hard to see either of them featuring here. Hopefully, they can both make an appearance at our next home game against Swansea and provide some much needed creativity. Gary O’Neil’s calf strain means he will sit this one out but other than that, Parky has a full squad to choose from, as Will Buckley has recovered from a hamstring strain.
Dean Smith will be without Icelandic midfielder Birkir Bjarnason who hobbled off in the 41st minute of last week’s 1-0 defeat at QPR with a groin injury. Albert Adomah is doubtful with a knee problem whilst Rushian Hepburn-Murphy has a hamstring injury. Keinan Davis continues to recover from an operation to cure a longstanding groin issue.
Oliver Langford will take charge of the game and the last time Langford was in charge of a Whites match was back in September, where he oversaw Wanderers’ 2-1 home defeat to Shteve McClaren’s Queens Park Rangers.
Adam Crysell and Akil Howson are his able assistants with our old friend, John Brooks, as the fourth official. Joy.
Villa will definitely see this as an opportunity to get back to winning ways and it’s difficult to back against a home win here. It strikes me as one of those games where Bolton do the unthinkable and have more than one shot on target away from home. I think we’ll score, but Villa may have too much
Enjoy the evening everyone.