It feels like we’ve been saying “three points are vital in this match” for weeks now, but it applies this weekend more than ever before. Bolton Wanderers can afford nothing less than taking all three points from their final game of the season - with Burton Albion and Barnsley one point ahead but with insurmountably better goal differences.
And with Bolton knowing that a win is the only option, they’d certainly have preferred easier opponents than Nottingham Forest. While the Reds are firmly stuck in mid-table obscurity going into the final day, Wanderers’ recent record against the East Midlanders is enough for even the most unwaveringly optimistic of supporters to bury their head in their hands.
Forest’s hoodoo over Bolton
Bolton have recorded just one league victory over Nottingham Forest this millennium, with just one solitary celebration of three points in 12 attempts since October 1999. Looking back further, we’ve won just two of the side’s last 16 league clashes in the last 25 years. And, even further back, we’ve won just four of the last 24 matches against Forest in all competitions since 1980.
Slightly more encouragingly, three quarters of those wins in the last four decades have been on home soil - although we’ve only beaten Forest on two of their seven trips to the Reebok / Macron Stadium.
The run should have ended at Forest earlier in the season but, in true Bolton fashion, we bottled it despite dominating the match and lost 3-2.
Time for the players to stand up and fight
This shocking recent record against this weekend’s opponents is, as our Glorious Leader would tell you, probably fairly irrelevant. But what is for sure is that we simply have to bring it to an end.
We also have to kill off the most untimely of horror shows that is Bolton’s current relegation-inducing Championship form. We’re now without a win in seven matches, we’ve claimed just one victory from our last 12 going back to the end of February, and won only two matches in 16 going back to beating Bristol City at home at the start of February.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, a more worrying statistic is that we’ve lost four of the last five home games and scored just two goals in that time - Adam le Fondre’s winner against Aston Villa and Mark Beevers’ opener against Preston, prior to buckling to a 3-1 defeat. Prior to that we hadn’t lost at home since December.
So where’s it all gone wrong? It’s easy to point the blame at the sale of Gary Madine and of course this has contributed massively to the side’s loss of form, but the problem is that we’ve continued playing the same style of football that we deployed when we had the big man up front. It wasn’t pretty then, but it was effective - now it’s just ugly and pointless.
The second half at Barnsley showed that this team does it have in them to play good football. We came out, showed some fight, passed the ball around and really should have taken all three points - only to throw it away in classic Bolton style with the last kick.
The ridiculously negative tactics that were bizarrely deployed at Burton simply cannot reoccur this weekend. Dorian Dervite should not be playing, Derik Osede should not be in midfield, Antonee Robinson has to be playing, and surely the energy of Josh Vela demands he’s brought back into the side?
Whatever Phil Parkinson decides upon tactically, the onus is now very much on the 11 players he puts on the pitch on Sunday. It’s time for them to step up for 90 minutes and deliver their side of the bargain just to give Wanderers a chance of survival.