Football is back everyone as Bolton Wanderers head South to kick off their League One 2022/23 season against Ipswich Town at Portman Road.
The main team news is that Jon Dadi Bodvarsson should recover from an ankle knock that kept him out of our final friendly against Huddersfield, to more than likely take his place on the bench, hopefully to reprise his super sub role at the end of the season. The big Icelander scored in each of his last 4 substitute appearances, netting 5 in those games.
It had seemed Ianevattable (sorry), even prior to JDB’s minor injury, that our performance in the BCD 2-0 win at Watford at London Colney had made the gaffer’s mind up as to who would make up his forward line in this particularly unenviable encounter to kick off what will hopefully be a promotion winning campaign.
Dion Charles and Dapo Afolayan played that afternoon, with sexy Kieran in a kind of pressing 8 position in behind. Those three also played in the same roles, and were involved in four of the six goals that saw off Sunderland at the UniBol in late Jan.
The rest of the team pretty much picks itself. Kyle Dempsey has had an eye catching pre-season in more ways than one, looking lean and fit for the first time in a Bolton shirt but also becoming embroiled in an unseemly incident in a pub, after he returned back to his home town of Maryport in the evening after our 3-1 friendly defeat to his former club Carlisle. An unprovoked attack was reported and let’s hope that this is the end of the repercussions of that incident
MJ Williams should start ahead of Dempsey, alongside Aaron Morley in the centre of the park, with Conor Bradley in the right wing-back role and Declan John, Wrexham links subsided, to patrol the left. Gethin Jones recovered from his own minor ailment that kept him from a return to Brunton Park and he will line up alongside captain Ricardo Santos and left sided George Johnston in Evatt’s preferred back three, for now anyway.
James Trafford, fresh from some England under 21 caps over the earlier part of the summer break, will hope to continue the good form that suggested his somewhat disappointing spell at Accrington was more of a bad fit, rather than an illustration of a bad goalkeeper.
We beat the Tractor Boys 7-2 on aggregate last season, although the 2-0 at the UniBol was very much in the balance until injury time and Dapo’s doubler, while the 5-2 was a bonkers early season game that ebbed and flowed before we clinically put them away early in the second half.
Dapo got three goals in these fixtures last season and you can be sure that Kieran McKenna knows all about his threat, especially when given the space to run at defences in transition.
Equally, Wes Burns ran stand-in left back Liam Gordon, now moved on and on the treatment table at the Bescot, absolutely ragged in that first half, setting up both Macauley Bonne’s early opener and Ricardo Santos’ own goal to make it 2-2 going into the break. His battle with fellow Welshman John down their right and our left, I feel, will go a long way to deciding the outcome of this mouth watering match.
The prediction I made on our Lion of Vienna podcast (Listen to it here) was 2-1 and a Kieran Lee late winner, which is unlikely really, as he rarely lasts more than 75 minutes. But I’ll stick with that and ride the unmistakable, unbridled optimism wave of newseasonitis and back Wanderers to continue their recent hoodoo over Ipswich.