Bolton Wanderers made it four wins in five league matches as they edged past Port Vale by the solitary goal, while Walsall made it no wins in their last five to extend their winless run as they drew 1-1 away to Crawley Town.
Wanderers head into this game with the second longest unbeaten run in the country, behind Barnsley. They will start as strong favourites to make it ten wins from twelve. The midweek results could hardly have gone better, with many of our promotion rivals losing or drawing as they rested up and the gap to third place is just four points now.
Various players have stepped up to the plate in this run, with right-back Gethin Jones notching his second ever professional goal and completing a season double by scoring both against the Valiants. His strike was set up cleverly by the agile and hard-working Dapo Afolayan, whose displays on-loan from West Ham, despite failing to hit the net yet, have endeared him to the Whites faithful.
Brian Dutton’s caretakership at Walsall has yielded just two points from eight games, as they conceded a 97th minute penalty equaliser to Crawley at the Bescot on Tuesday evening. One win in fifteen makes for grim reading for the midlanders and what looked like a season of pushing towards the play-offs has descended into a fight to stay out of the relegation battle.
Nine points is a significant buffer, however, and Dutton will take heart from a series of improved performances recently. Five losses by one goal and six draws in their last twelve games paints a picture of a side either without the right mentality to turn a tight game their way, or a side who’s struggling to catch a break.
The Saddlers outmuscled the Trotters in December, as a dubious equaliser scored by the now departed Elijah Adebayo was added to by Rory Holden’s winner, another player who has been badly missed by the Saddlers.
This time, we’re back on our own patch, where Wanderers can implement their passing game and up against a side who’s wind was knocked out of their sails with that late, late Nichols equaliser.
Six wins in seven at the UniBol have banished the memory of their early season woes at home and Ian Evatt has almost a clean bill of health. Just long-term absentees Dennis Politic and Liam Edwards are missing long-term, although skipper Antoni Sarcevic is ruled out with a hamstring tear that may well keep him out of the run-in.
The likelihood is that his replacement in the scrappy win at Vale Park last Saturday, Lloyd Isgrove, will keep his place and Nathan Delfouneso’s will shift into the number ten role, like he did in Burslem. Little used January signing Marcus Maddison is another option, despite flattering to deceive in his outings for the club thus far.
Bolton Wanderers – WWDWW
Walsall – LDLLD
Bolton Wanderers 2-0 Walsall
Eoin Doyle and Ricardo Santos to finally score from a corner to give Evatt a big boost, going into a run of tricky games against fellow promotion contenders.