Scout File: Bolton Wanderers (H)

Courtesy Graham Burrell

We’re a handful of matches into the season now, and we can begin to build up a picture of our opponents, their tactics and their key players.

With that in mind, here is my preview of tomorrow’s game. I’m inclined to keep going with previews, but they’re not particularly popular articles. I’ll keep going for now, see if they grow on you.

Bolton Wanderers 21/22

Courtesy Graham Burrell

The Bolton we see today are not at all like the side that came to us last January and got beat 5-1. On that occasion, they had Liam Bridcutt out injured, but were a sorry collection of players heading for the drop. Ian Evatt came in to take over after leading Barrow out of the National League, and despite a shaky start, he earned promotion with a sensational run at the back end of last season. I keep hearing talk of them spending big over the summer, and whilst they have made some eye-catching signings, they’re not tipped by many to be around the top six. They did make two captures from Europe, George Johnston joined from Feyenoord and Xavier Amaechi came in on loan from Hamburg. Will Aimson is without a doubt a good capture at this level, having previously been at Plymouth, whilst you’d expect Amadou Bakayoko, Elias Kachunga, Josh Sheehan and Declan John to do well. The latter is not expected to start after picking up a knock at the weekend.

If we expected a cagey game from Fleetwood, the opposite could be said of Bolton. Coming into the season, I’d have nailed this as a 1-0 either way, such was their form in League Two, but in their three games last week Bolton scored six and conceded six, with a 0-0 draw in the cup included in those results! Sheehan is settling in well after leaving Newport, he already has two, whilst Bakayoko also has one. This could be another high scoring game, seeing as we’ve scored five and conceded four this season.

I think there is no better time to play Bolton, more signings are expected and as the players settle into a routine, they’ll be tighter at the back and still carry the attacking threat. they’re a team to watch.

Tactics

Bolton operate with a 4-1-4-1 at home, but went 4-2-3-1 away at Wimbledon and I’d expect them to do the same tomorrow. Joel Dixon followed Evatt from Barrow, and he’s known to Boston fans having been in goal for them in 2014. With John a doubt, Liam Gordon will likely deputise whilst veteran Alex Baptise partners Portuguese centre back Richard Santos in the middle. I liked Gethin Jones a few years ago for Mansfield, and he plays on the right. In midfield, Josh Sheehan and Michael Williams will protect the back four, but Sheehan is a threat at the other end of the field too. Two new boys prowl the flanks, Bakayoko and Afolayan from West Ham, who has been amongst the goals already. Former Plymouth man Sarcevic will play ten and captain the side, with the prolific Eoin Doyle up top.

Key Man

There are a few dangermen in their ranks, but I’m going with 29-year-old Sarcevic, their captain. He had a hand in 11 goals last season in League One, which isn’t bad when you consider they only scored 59. That’s the lowest number of goals scored by a team that earned automatic promotion since Wycombe in 2009. For me, that underlines his potential, he had a hand in one of every five goals (more or less) they scored, and his xG was only 4.42, so he outperformed expectation too. This season, he has appeared in all three games for them, getting five shots away (none on target), and creating two chances for teammates. I would describe him as mercurial, prone to moments of utter brilliance, but who can be stopped with the right marking and attention.

Previous Meetings

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Last time out, we beat them 5-1, but the scoreline flattered us. We led in the first half, but a youngster named Ronan Darcy smashed a great goal to get them level, and despite taking a slender 2-1 lead into the last ten minutes, we made the scoreline look emphatic thanks to John Akinde’s brace. They were his final goals for the Imps, and it was Harry Toffolo’s final outing for City also. Tyler Walker had put us ahead and it was his last goal for City too. It’s been all change since; only two of the squad from that night are still here, Tayo Edun and Max Melbourne, and neither played a part in the game.

Before that, the only meeting this century had been our FA Cup game in 2010, when a Premier League Bolton brushed Chris Sutton’s lone rangers aside, 4-0. We’d somehow been level at the break, but a Moses Swaibu own goal opened the floodgates for a Trotters team featuring Gary Cahill, Ivan Klasnic, Fabrice Muamba and Kevin Davies.

Credit Graham Burrell

Before that, there was a 3-1 FA Cup defeat at the Bank in 1993, but the last time we played each other twice in a league season was 1985/86. City were relegated that year, whilst Bolton fared only mildly better, finishing 18th. Warren Ward scored at Burnden Park for us, whilst Kevin Kilmore got our goal in the reverse fixture later in the season.

In total there have been 20 meetings between the two, with nine Bolton wins, seven Lincoln wins and four draws. There has only ever been one goalless draw, in 1983, and we have failed to score in six of the 20 meetings.