Usually writing a match preview can be a bit of box ticking exercise. When I take on this assignment, which I actually enjoy doing, I will start by firstly talking about Wanderers’ mot recent fixture coupled with their most recent game against the upcoming opponent. From there I’ll touch on various topics such as form, injuries & head to head records. It’s a pretty solid formula.
Despite it’s reliabllity I couldn’t help but think that formula would not do this game justice with all that has happened between these sides. Scheduling and postponements have opened up a rift between the two sides and the game on Tuesday could carry a little more heat than your normal roses clash.
So let’s take ourselves back to August 2019. Bolton’s protracted takeover was rumbling on and Bolton’s young side had just been beaten heavily away at Tranmere Rovers with only 3 ‘senior’ players featuring in the line-up in the Wirral. The games had come thick and fast for the young Wanderers side and questions were being asked of the EFL as to why a club in such turmoil had been allowed to start the season. A fair question but by this point, the die was cast.
With just two days rest before another full strength senior side lined up to face the Wanderers U23 side, Bolton had a decision to make. The games had taken their toll on the players and risks were ever-increasing as the players had to risk their fitness to aid a mess not of their making.
Something had to give
Bolton’s administrators were left to make one of the toughest decisions of their longer than anticipated tenure and postponed the fixture. With their statement citing they had consulted Bolton’s medical staff and were concerned about the welfare of the young players. Bolton knew the implications of their decision noting that the ‘... threat of further sanctions is obvious.’
Doncaster immediately responded aggreived they had not been informed or consulted of Wanderers’ decision and instead found out via social media channels. Whilst I’m unsure what liaising may have done, Bolton knew the implications of their decision before hand, I suppose manners cost nothing and it hard not to empathise with Doncaster with regards to how they discovered about their postponement.
As we all know, the game didn’t go ahead and both teams were left in limbo as to what exactly happens next. Many felt a fair resolution was to award Doncaster Rovers the win. Personally, I was of the opinion that the game should be replayed at no penalty to Bolton as whilst the Whites could have handled the postponement itself better, their reasons were legitimate and both Bolton Wanderers & the EFL had a duty of care to Wanderers’ young players.
The decision was down to EFL who in turn referred the matter to an independent disciplinary commision. It was not until November when Wanderers learned their fate and Wanderers were handed a £70,000 fine and a 5 point penalty for missing both the Doncaster game and the game against Brentford in the previous season. The controversy came in the decision to suspend the points penalty for 18 months, a decision that did not sit well in Yorkshire or indeed at League One clubs across the country.
In a statement, Rovers noted they were dissapointed in the decision and were concerned the leniency of the decision potentially threatened the integrity of the competition moving forward.
Subsequently, the EFL appealed the decision of the independent disciplinary commision, an action that was met with dismay at Bolton as the new regime and fans alike were keen to draw a line on the issues of the past. New Wanderers Chairwoman Sharon Brittan indicated the Bolton would ‘vehemently defend any appeal.’
And so the matter rumbled on, until in January of this year, a seperate independent panel upheld the punishments of the first, due to the mitigating circumstances around Bolton’s decision. Thus bringing an end to matters and a cloud that had hung over Bolton since the end of last season was finally lifted. To their credit, Doncaster Rovers have constantly reaffirmed their empathy to Wanderers’ plight and have said they were pleased the takeover had done through.
Understandly, the whole affair has left a sour taste in the mouth for those involved and I think it is very fair to say there were no real winners out of the whole affair.
The two sides meet on Tuesday with Darren Moore feeling the professionalism of the playing departments of both clubs will allow the game to be played in the correct spirit.