This is where we came in...With four weeks of the season left we finally get to play the return of our opening day fixture at Bolton. A win on home soil will cement our Prem status for another year.
It's been a while since Bolton last managed a win by the Thames in league fixtures. Let's gain revenge for that rather casual - and unexpected - loss in Round 5 of the FA Cup and make sure we put our season to bed with a win under the lights at 'fortress Fulham.' Our home record since the turn of the year has been as strong as Wanderers run on the road has been awful. Eight losses from nine matches means Bolton have picked up even fewer away points than us - one of the divisions poorest travellers - in the past six months. For the record their last 3 pointer on the road came at Wolves in November.
And speaking of the Wolves...I took a little flak for being harsh - too much so for some fans - with our inability to really turn the screw Saturday at Molineux and come away with the win. Not converting overwhelming possession into goals is one of the biggest frustrations for managers. I make no apologies for my critique. Stoke's clinical dismantling of the same side underlines just how limited Wolves now are in their season of struggle. Post match last night at the Britannia you could see McCarthy had given up the ghost. As he admitted, Hennessey saved them from a pasting worse than 0-3. In fact, from Saturday's interviews - although no manager of course is going to write off his side with 5 games still to go - you could sense the Wolves camp knew the game was up, expressing their delight at just the one point off our toothless team.
So I shall discard my widow's weeds and look forward to a much improved display tonight. We all know that a win will see us up to the secure level of 42 points and 9th in the table. Whatever follows three teams will not match that. The Blackburn result from Monday exposed another under pressure manager in Steve Kean. He'd been bullish prior to the visit of Citeh, boasting of Rovers fine home record. I sensed a note of controlled panic coming out of Ewood in his own post-match interview. Blackburn and Wolves are both now in serious trouble and running out of games.
But let's focus on the Superwhites. This is our most winnable game of the final 5. All the setbacks and struggles of this difficult campaign can be put to bed with three more points. Surely as a collective so many players can't have another off day, can they? I will be ecstatic should Sturridge fail to overcome his ankle knock, and let's hope the Arsenal game Sunday took plenty out of Owen Coyle's boys. The Bolton boss has been praising our side to the hilt with the media, naming Zamora, Duff, Dembele and Clint as exceptional players. Let's get out there and really put in a performance!
The team news is that Murphy's overcome his dead leg and BZ is back to full fitness. Competition for places therefore would suggest Sparky has to decide who plays wide in Damien's absence (back hopefully for Saturday) and does he start AJ after his goal Saturday?
I did have to smile when Hughes complemented AJ for his contribution from the bench at Wolves, saying 'I'm glad he got a goal, that's all he needed to go on a run." Funnily enough, the gaffer was saying the same after his equally scruffy leveller at Wigan in January. Just 3 goals this campaign from all the game time he's had is I'm afraid not good enough from the club's top earner.
Oops, there I go - moaning again! 'Nuff said. Let's all be behind the team tonight from the off and look to keep that hoodoo over Bolton alive. I was looking back to that 4-1 win they had at our place back in 1992 and recalled it vividly. It was during my radio reporting days and the clubs were then in Division 3 but heading in opposite directions. We got hammered. But there's not much between the two clubs in terms of size, support and recent records in the Prem. Did I say at the start of the week we could well have to make do with three draws this week? Hmm, hope for once I'm wrong.
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