It’s probably not too overly dramatic to say that tonight’s home clash with fellow relegation battlers Reading is a make or break match in Bolton Wanderers’ season.
Win their game in hand on the sides around them and Wanderers could feasibly (although unlikely, given a 4-goal victory would be required) climb out of the relegation zone. While a defeat would see them continue to stare up at the rest of the pack, with tough tasks against Sheffield United, Norwich City, Leeds United and Swansea City among the following six matches.
Worryingly, most Wanderers fans seem to be hanging their hopes on a 17-year-old rookie being selected for tonight’s match. Even more of a concern, if Luca Connell follows up his impressive debut against Bristol City with another good performance then he might not be at the club by the time we play again at the weekend. The youngster is reportedly on the radar of Premier League clubs, with Tottenham Hotspur apparently scouting him tonight, and I suspect our glorious leader is keen on cashing in on any potential asset.
Reading, on the other hand, have strengthened with several impressive loan signings in January. They’ve brought in Norwich striker Nelson Oliveira, Chelsea youngster Lewis Baker and defender Matt Miazga, Liverpool winger Ovie Ejaria and Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
While Bolton have snapped up... 35-year-old Gary O’Neil and backup goalkeeper Remi Matthews, who doesn’t technically count as a signing.
Bolton’s recent record against Reading doesn’t make for pretty reading. The 1-0 win at the Madejski back in August was the first victory over The Royals in nine meetings and we’ve only won three of our last 14 games against them. Having said that, we are unbeaten in the last three games against Reading as the sides shared two draws last season.
Bolton go into the match were serious defensive concerns, as David Wheater, Mark Beevers, Marc Wilson and Jonathan Grounds are all questionable with various injury concerns.
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Bolton Wanderers: 15/8