December 28, 2012 by Made In Brum
Blues travel to the Reebok Stadium tomorrow to take on Bolton Wanderers. Dougie Freedman hasn’t had the best of times since joining the Trotters from Crystal Palace earlier in the season. Gabriel Sutton previews the encounter, Dan Harris provides the stats.
If we’re going to be one of those teams that sneaks into the play-offs by producing a great run of wins in the second half of the season, this seems like last chance saloon. Being able to grind out that win at Barnsley suggests that consolidation, rather avoiding relegation, will be objective going into 2013, but if we want to add short-term purpose to our season, and make an attempt to surpass expectations by clinching a play-off spot, then this is a game we’d need to be showing some ambition in.
A look at the team
I was pleased that we managed to get out of Barnsley with the three points. Considering the number of injuries we’ve got, that the Tykes may have been about to hit some form having won on Saturday and our 5-0 defeat to them back in September, I would have reluctantly taken a point before the game. Losing it would have put us in a lot of trouble whilst waiting for the return of key players, but winning the match puts more daylight between ourselves and the relegation zone.
I’m going to be approaching this game with a slightly reserved attitude though. That’s partly because in the Barnsley game, the Tykes’ had 67% possession. A higher-calibre team would have punished us by creating more chances, being more clinical with the ones they had- we’d have probably come away from the game feeling differently had Davies scored the penalty. It was a great win to get, but it was hardly an inspiring, season-defining performance. The other reason for my subdued buoyancy is that frustratingly, we’ve not had back-to-back victories all season- we’ve drawn 2 and lost 4 of the 6 Championship matches that came directly after our wins so far. This lack of consistency is why we’re in the position that we are, so I definitely think Clark has a job to focus the players and ensure that we can build on that win, rather than lose the next game again and go back to square 1.
For injuries and suspensions, we’re in the same position as we were against Barnsley going into this game, except Robinson is back in the squad and ended up playing on Wednesday. Spector, King, Lovenkrands and Diop are amongst the latest injuries we’ve had to deal with. In terms of the line-up, I really hope Clark sees the need to give Caldwell a rest. He’s looked fatigued and worn-out all season and I’m not entirely sure how him playing twice every 5 days or so during this Christmas period will improve that. I’d be inclined to give Caldwell 10 days break and allow Ibanez a run in the team. That way, he’d be doing something to improve our defensive record, whilst also creating an atmosphere within the club in which the players feel the need to fight for their places in the team. Rob Hall’s ability from set pieces has been priceless to the team since he’s come on loan from West Ham. He’s helped us score important goals which have won us points when we haven’t necessarily deserved it, I’d love to see him stay at the club. People are criticizing Clark for fielding Hall ahead of Chris Burke, but looking back at the matches he’s played, you’d have to say that Hall’s latest performances have more than justified that decision. I recognise people saying that he’s far from got the best out of Burke, but surely the best way to restore his performances of last season, is to continue to play the man who’s performing better than him. I would expect that to be a source of healthy competition within the squad.
However, by all accounts Redmond had a poor game against Barnsley, which was disappointing after his performance against Burnley. Wade Elliott has been more effective and hardworking on the left lately, so him and Hall would be my two wide midfielders. I have to say; generally speaking I’m not a fan of Mullins. I think the select few fans who booed him before kick-off against Burnley were totally wrong to do so, and to be fair he did have one of his better games, but on the whole I’m not sure what he adds to the team. His positional sense and experience is good, but everything he has in his reading of the game, he loses in his lack of mobility and getting easily barged off the ball. I think Papa Bouba Diop when he returns, and Callum Reilly, should be the midfield partnership for this season, because I don’t rate Mullins. I’d never boo him, I’ve never booed any Birmingham City player and will always support the team, but at the moment I don’t feel that he’s strong enough.
A bit about Bolton
In many ways, Bolton haven’t had an entirely dissimilar past few seasons to ourselves. Only last season, Bolton were regarded by many as an established Premiership club. They had been in England’s top flight for 11 years having had some memorable games in the Europa League, but seem to have taken backward steps since the loss of Sam Allardyce as manager. He guided them to promotion to the Premiership in 2001, and they were to become one of the regulars in the Promised Land for a significant period of time. In fact, in his last four seasons at the club he achieved a record of consecutive top 10 finishes, bettered only by the Premiership’s big four.
However, since Allardyce left for an unsuccessful stint at Newcastle, no manager has been able to emulate his achievements. The fans’ dislike for Gary Megson led to his eventual sacking and his replacement, Owen Coyle, hasn’t done any better. Coyle was, in fact, a short-term success. He helped the side to avoid relegation with a flourish after he took over, guiding them to 14th. However, since then the debt has raked up at the Reebok and their relegation had led to the club no longer having the finances to pay it off and afford the wages for their best players. Sound familiar?
After a very poor start to the Championship campaign, Coyle was sacked as Bolton manager and replaced by Dougie Freedman who arrived from Crystal Palace.
Bolton’s recent form
Bolton have had a similar season to the Blues too. When Freedman won his first game against Cardiff, many predicted it to change the club’s fortunes, yet his tenure in charge has proved to be little more than a damp squib. The four matches after that victory ended in draws for the Trotters, meaning that they remained in the lower reaches of the table. They’ve now lost their last two matches against relegation-threatened Peterborough and Sheffield Wednesday, apparently with a dismal performance against Wednesday, proving that Bolton’s promotion hopes may need to be put on hold until next season.
Bolton don’t seem to have an obvious, recognised goalscorer. They’re the type of team in which any attacking player can thrive on their day, but they’ve not got one consistent goalscorer to always rely on. Chris Eagles is by definition their top scorer, having chipped in with 7 goals from midfield this season, and scored Bolton’s goal when we played them at St. Andrews back in September. However, to say Eagles is their big threat is slightly misguided, as he’s scored just 1 goal in their last 15 games- the fact that he’s top scorer is mainly down to his fantastic early season form. Kevin Davies, who normally leads their attack, hasn’t scored in his last 5 and Mark Davies, another decent goalscorer for Bolton, is out for a few months. Afobe and Sordell may have the ability to change the game for Bolton as impact substitutes, but it’s difficult to identify where the danger lies.
Blues made the journey up to the Reebok with a fantastic defensive record, having conceded just 5 goals from 9 games so far that season. They had recently held Chelsea at St. Andrews and played out a goalless draw against Aston Villa and were up to 7th in the table. Kenny Cunningham’s reading of the game and Matthew Upson’s athleticism, combined with a few decent saves from Maik Taylor, gave our defence an intimidating look. Bolton had won just 1 game so far that season and had lost 6-2 to Manchester City in their last match, sitting in lower midtable.
The match consisted of more penalty appeals than anything else. Bolton had about 7 turned down during the course of the match, but Blues had a shout when Ivan Campo may have tripped David Dunn. Blues got their goal on the half hour on the counter attack. Bolton had a corner, which Blues managed to defend and Dunn’s dribble carried the ball up the pitch, Dugarry managed to sidestep two defenders, but Emmerson Thome’s interception pass to Simon Charlton backfired, as Charlton slipped and Mikael Forssell tapped home his 4th goal of the season from a few yards. Blues managed to withstand Bolton pressure in typically defiant fashion, and managed to hold onto the win amid criticisms of Bruce for playing ‘boring football’. Blues’s great start was to deteriorate in the latter weeks of that season in a respectable 10thplace finish, although we did the double over them, Bolton ended up finishing 03/04 3pts above us in 8th.
I’m inclined to go for a draw for this one. Bolton might not have one reliable goalscorer, but it’s worth remembering that they have also got the second-best goalscoring record in the bottom half of the division their goals are just much more shared out. I’m pretty sure they’ll get on the score sheet as well, because we’ve got the 4th-worst defensive record of all the teams outside the relegation zone, and Caldwell looks vulnerable to Davies’s physical threat and Afobe’s pace off the bench. However, we’re probably capable of scoring as well, and Bolton are missing two of their best centre-backs in Wheater and Mills- Hall has the opportunity to further prove his set play skills. I’m going to say 1-1, which wouldn’t delight either sets of fans, but with promotion ambitions for both teams seemingly put on hold until next season, neither side will have all that much to play for in the last match going into 2013.
By Gabriel Sutton @_thescore
Below stats compiled by @bcfcarchive
Head to Head
Blues have 7 of the previous 58 visits to Bolton. There have been 18 draws and 33 defeats.
Blues have won 12.07% of matches as the away side in this fixture.
Statistically, this trip is the least likely fixture that Blues are going to win in the current Championship, based on previous results.
The biggest win for Blues when travelling to Bolton came on the sixth visit to the Trotters, Goals from Green, Tickle and Mounteney sealed a 3-2 win for Alfred Jones’ side in front of an estimated crowd of 5,000 on Monday 11th March 1907.
The heaviest defeat for Blues came on Saturday 10th December 1955, when Bolton recorded a 6-0 victory, with a crowd of 15,793 seeing the eventual FA Cup runners-up of that season well beaten in the First Division clash.
A memorable game came at early in 1999/2000 season, when both sides shared a 3-3. Paul Furlong scored twice and David Holdsworth was also amongst the goals in the live televised fixture on Saturday 5th September.
Overall Bolton hold the advantage in previous matches, winning 48 of 121. Blues have recorded 41 victories and there have been 32 draws.
On previous visits, Blues have scored 56 and conceded 123 goals in this fixture.
On average there has been 2.12 goals per game for Bolton and 0.97 for Blues.
In total, Bolton have scored 195, to Blues’ 168 in the history of this fixture.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Blues record goal scorer, Joe Bradford, is the player that has scored the most goals when on away visits to Bolton. His seven goals came between 1921 and 1932.
The only own goal to go in Blues favour came on the 16th December 1967 scored by Bolton’s Farrimond in a 1-1 draw.
Trevor Francis, Trevor Hockey, Ken Leek, Harry Hooper and Paul Furlong all had 2 goals in their Blues careers away to Bolton.
There have been 45 different scorers for Blues as the away side in this clash, none of these goals have come from the penalty spot.
Blues have failed to score on 21 previous visits to Bolton.
Blues have kept 8 clean sheets, the last coming on Saturday 25th October 2003, when Mikael Forssell lead Blues to all three points with the only goal in a 1-0 win at the Reebok.
There have been 5 0-0 draws
Blues have recorded two 1-0 wins, three 2-1 and one 2-0 win in the previous encounters
The most common score line in this fixture is 1-1. This has happened in seven matches. The last 1-1 draw in the second tier came on Saturday 30th April 1994, Roger Willis got the Blues goal.
The highest scoring contest between these sides came on New Years Day 1926, when two goals from Joe Bradford and one from W Harris were not enough to prevent a 5-3 Bolton win.
On this day
In matches played on the 29th December, Blues have won 8, drawn 8 and lost only once in 17.
In home matches, Blues have won 5 and drew 5, unfortunately the only defeat came at home to Bolton Wanderers in 1990.
Blues have won 3 and drew 3 as the away side from 6 matches.
Previously 17 different opponents have faced Blues on this day, starting with Liverpool in 1894 and ending with Fulham in 2007.
Bolton will join Fulham in having faced Blues twice.
The biggest margin of victory for Blues on the 29th has been 3-0. This has occurred three times, in 1894 at home to Liverpool, 1906 at home to Preston North End and away to Stockport County in 2001.
The win at Stockport, is the last time Blues won on this day, there have since been a 2-2 draw at home to Luton Town in 2006 and a 1-1 with Fulham at St Andrews also.
There have been 30 goals scored and 17 conceded.
The most common score line for fixture on this date is 1-1. This has happened four times.
Blues have failed to score only once, in a 0-0 draw with Swansea City in 1982.