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LOV Bolton Wanderers 20/21 Predictions: Lee

Lee tries to predict how this season will go for Wanderers

Plymouth Argyle v Swindon Town - Sky Bet League Two Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

This week, all the writers here at LOV are going to try and predict how the season will go for Bolton.

Next up is Lee:

Best Signing

A player who I’ve always heard good things about at this level and who helped to quickly endear himself to the fans when he waxed lyrical in podcast interviews about how massive a club we were straight after signing.Yes, it’s Antoni Sarcevic!

A Manchester lad who began at City and with a glowing reference from Pilgrims fans after a superb campaign in PPPGP (Plymouth’s points per game promotion!) last season. He’s someone who from clips I’ve seen looks like real captain material and Ian Evatt obviously agrees, hanging him the armband permanently this morning, as I quickly rewrite this paragraph!

He can seemingly can do it all in midfield.A reliable penalty taker and set piece specialist with good work rate, decent passing range and the ability to do the unexpected. Throw in a howitzer of a long shot into his armoury and he is the main man I am looking forward to watching, whenever we are allowed back in!

Special mention for new left wing-back Liam Gordon, who in his first outings in pre-season looks a real find from Dagenham with pace, power, determination and stamina coupled with no little quality too.

Top scorer

It’s really hard and pretty foolish to look beyond the top scorer of League Two in its curtailed last season in Eoin Doyle. Especially when he ended up scoring 25 in 28 games, 11 clear of his nearest competitor Nicky Maynard.It is unclear, however, whether he or Sarcevic (the penalty taker for Plymouth last season) will undertake those duties and he did have a lean spell back at Bradford, admittedly in a system that didn’t play to his strengths.

When reunited with Richie Wellens down in Wiltshire, he just scored in one (though that was a brace) of six games before COVID suspended all football and eventually put an end to the league season.All this could point to a downturn in form but a lot has happened in the world since this comparatively lean spell and he has notched a couple of pre-season goals, including a penalty so that points to him being the main man for that responsibility.

So, despite being a year nearer retirement, Doyle should be savvy enough to use his vast experience and know-how at this level to ensure his energy is expanded where it’s needed most; in the penalty box where he can and should fire the goals to take us back up at the first time of asking.

Game you’re looking forward to most

There are a few local derbies in Oldham, Salford and Morecambe, at a push, with old foes Tranmere not a million miles away either. Not nearly as many as we had in league one though.Barrow may turn into a bit of a grudge match too, after we ‘stole’ their manager!

From a purely geographical standpoint, Harrogate Town away sounds rather splendid, doesn’t it! The Mrs has a nice spa day while I watch the game. Perfect! Well, that’s if away fans are allowed in at all this season, which seems rather doubtful as things stand.

Opposing player you’d love

I’ll admit my League Two knowledge is fair-to-sketchy at best with it being only our second season at this level in our entire history. However, I really liked the look of Adam Phillips on loan from Burnley at Morecambe from the highlights I did see and am surprised they’ve been able to bring him back after 7 goal involvements in 12 games, before COVID struck.An ex-Liverpool youngster who looks too good for this level by all accounts and a position we are looking a bit light in after the cruel injury to our young star-in-the-making, Dennis Politic.

Key player this season

As much as Doyle and Sarcevic are the marquee names and how their performances stand-up to the rightly high expectations their reputations at this level command will certainly go a long way to determining how successful a campaign we have, I actually think it’ll be the defence and goalkeeper who may have to get us over the line.

Evatt’s attractive and expansive style of play may be liable to leaving us open to the more ruthless opponents in the division to take full advantage. This, some may argue, has already been shown in the heavy reverses against Wigan and Crewe this past week, bringing us all back to down to earth after the seamlessness of our easy opening three victories versus vastly inferior sides.

My pick as key player is therefore a young lad who has been trusted with filling the boots of Hopkinson, Branagan, Jaaskelainen and, ahem, Remi Matthews...Billy Crellin’s signing on loan from Joey Barton’s Fleetwood Town is a gamble of huge proportions from Evatt to give a 20 year-old such a baptism of fire in league football.Let’s hope that his quality of distribution and of course the technical aspects of his actual goalkeeping skillset match his lofty reputation in the game and he can set the tempo for the ‘building-out-from-the-back’ mantra, while keeping out the opposition handily enough too.

Predict the first six games

Going with the league games here as I think we’ll rotate in the cups, making them that bit harder to call!

Forest Green Rovers (H) 1-1 Doyle

Colchester United (A) 2-2 Sarcevic Gordon

Newport County (H) 2-0 Doyle (pen) Delfouneso

Harrogate Town (A) 2-2 Taft Doyle

Grimsby Town (H) 3-2 Delfouneso Doyle

Oldham Athletic (H) 4-1 Doyle (2) Delfouneso Darcy

So a sticky start, not winning either of our first two.We start to click in October, despite Harrogate raising their game to steal a point off us. Four games at home from the opening 6 and unbeaten would do me, anyway.

I think high scoring games will be the order of the day as the team understands and embraces ‘Brand Evatt’s’ attacking ethos, making plenty of chances for Doyle to convert as he scores in 5 of the first 6 games. It takes time, however, to figure out how to keep the back door shut at the same time.

Final league position

3rd. We’ll just scrape promotion after a nervy final day at Crawley, edging out arch rivals Tranmere Rovers!

Any other business prediction

Grimsby to be promoted in the play-offs at Tranmere’s expense and Ian Holloway to give a momentous after-match interview, including his explanation as to why he’d rather be at Grimsby than any other club in the world.