Meet Bolton: Five straight losses, but a prolific new striker
- Credit: PA
Ipswich Town make the long trip to Bolton Wanderers for a League One clash today (3pm). Mark Heath takes a look at Wanderers...
Story so far
Bolton's 5-2 win at Ipswich back in early September, and a 4-1 thumping of Charlton, also away, at the end of the month, were the high points of Wanderers' season so far.
Back then, it looked as though Ian Evatt's men might be in the shake-up for a second-straight promotion - but things have soured significantly since then.
Wanderers have lost their last five games in all competitions and haven't actually won in the league since November 23 - a 3-0 triumph over Doncaster. And everybody beats Doncaster.
Indeed, the last time Bolton beat anyone outside of the bottom three was all the way back on October 2, a 2-1 home win over Shrewsbury.
They've had Covid issues - three games were postponed in December - and injury problems, and have sunk like a stone in the table.
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They now sit 18th, just three points above the relegation places.
Natives are restless
As you'd expect, fans are voicing their concerns.
Evatt, though, has appealed for time and patience as he tries to turn things around.
"Of course they (fans) will get concerned, and they have every right," he told the Bolton News.
"Frustration is understandable, but things will improve. That is the thing we all have to understand – and I am the worst, I want success right here, right now.
“I have had back-to-back promotions and I want another one. That is the kind of guy I am.
“But, realistically, we are in a transitional period and we are almost a window or two behind where we need to be.
"It is frustrating for everyone involved. But we know what we need to do, the board know what we need as well and I’ll say again that together we’ll do it.”
Help on the way
True to his word, Evatt and Bolton have already been busy in January.
Wanderers have signed four players so far - striker Dion Charles from Accrington, midfielder Aaron Morley from Rochdale, defender Marlon Fossey on loan from Fulham and keeper James Trafford on loan from Manchester City.
All could play today, with ball-playing midfielder Morley and prolific hitman Charles adding much-needed quality.
Charles scored 20 goals in League One for Accrington last season, so is proven at this level. He's only scored once so far this season though, as he sought to leave Stanley.
The £320,000 capture will hope for a new lease of life up top for Bolton
Evatt's hopeful of adding more too, with a thigh injury to forward Elias Kachunga likely to keep him out of contention for at least two months.
One to watch
While Town were awful in that 5-2 humbling at Portman Road back in September, winger Dapo Afolayan was almost unplayable.
He scored twice and posed such a threat that then-boss Paul Cook was forced into substituting the beleaguered Kane Vincent-Young before half-time. A fine display.
And West Ham youth product Afolayan has generally been a danger for Bolton all season - he leads the side with nine goals in all competitions in his 30 games so far.
That said, he's not scored since the start of November, and has been forced to do more defensive work in recent months than he probably would have liked.
With the new arrivals and a tickle to the Bolton philosophy, one wonders if Afolayan will get a new lease of life. Hopefully not today.
Stopping the rot
Evatt knows he and his side have to stop the bleeding - and soon.
"We have to stop this rot and hopefully that will start on Saturday," he told the club website. “I don’t believe in looking down. I think we should always be looking up. That’s the type of person I am.
“I am a positive person and I think we’ve got lots of positive things to look forward to.
“The new players are settling in really well and making a difference, returning players are making a difference and we just need to break this cycle of defeats and get some confidence back and hopefully that will happen on Saturday.
“We need to start getting results again and we’re only one goal away from that, I believe.
“I think if we score the first goal in games I think the confidence that will give the players will be huge and hopefully that happens on Saturday.
“The main thing for us is to make sure we take our opportunities.”