Bolton have had a lot of shortcomings over the opening five games of the Championship season and they have strayed from their core values of hard work and organisation instilled to such great effect in League One last season.
“We must make sure we are harder to play against,” Phil Parkinson has reiterated after each match so far, without effect.
The stats show that Bolton have made fewer tackles per game than any other team in the Championship. Boltons average dropped to just 12.4 attempted tackles per game. Leeds and Millwall topping the stats with an average of 21 and 20.2, respectively.
Of the four goals scored so far by Bolton, only one has come from open play – which alongside Preston is the lowest number in the division.
Parkinson’s side developed a fearsome reputation in League One from set pieces and welcome back one of their chief threats in David Wheater for the visit of Middlesbrough this weekend.
‘Bingo Dave’ has been given the green-light to face his former club, if selected. The big defender has been missing since the opening day defeat to Leeds but has made a full recovery from his back injury and is now poised to return to Phil Parkinson’s starting line-up at the Macron.
Wheater had complained of hamstring pain through the latter part of pre-season and was sent to see a specialist to try and remedy the issue. He returned a fortnight ago and was considered for a starting spot against Hull City before the international break but the decision was taken to give him extra rest to ensure the injury had completely healed.
Sammy Ameobi is another face who should come into contention for the first time following his summer move from Newcastle. The 25-year-old is another member of the Bolton squad to have played for Boro having spent a short time on loan on Teesside in 2013.
Ameobi had picked up a knee injury against Stoke City in the final pre-season warm-up game but has now returned to training and is expected to be named in the squad this weekend.
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Bolton may, however, need more strings to their bow and the addition of winger Craig Noone could help to sharpen things up in their attack. It remains to be seen whether Noone or the fit-again Sammy Ameobi will come straight into the equation against Boro but the consensus is that Parkinson is exploring a move away from the 3-5-2 formation he has used primarily in the opening five games.
Injuries have taken the edge off Wanderers’ performances so far but that does not completely excuse some of the performances on the pitch. Looking at the season so far the two best Bolton performances have been away from home. The two home games in the league being a let-down for the Bolton fans.
Boro have themselves been hit and miss so far and sit mid-table but have strength in depth in the squad to easily improve on that position.
Prediction : 0-1
A typical Boro odd goal win with a clean sheet.