Preston head to the University of Bolton stadium on the back of a four-game unbeaten run and a somewhat decent January transfer window but, one which, in mine and most fans’ opinion, needed to happen following the injuries we’ve had recently and the squad starting to look a bit threadbare.
Since bringing in five new players and players like Sean Maguire and Ben Pearson coming back from injury and suspension respectively, results have picked up for North End. Bolton, on the other hand, haven’t fared particularly well in recent times. The Trotters have lost three of their last four games managing one draw amongst the three defeats with that point coming against fellow strugglers Reading.
The head to head record between Preston and Bolton in the last few seasons hasn’t made particularly good reading for Bolton fans, either, and the form book doesn’t look particularly great of late. Bolton have lost three of last five games and drawn the other two with the most recent stalemate coming in a 2-2 tie at Deepdale in September last year. That was a game that also ended with Ben Pearson receiving a red card after the final whistle after something that went on between him and Joe Williams and sparked a mass brawl of sorts (imagine no punching and a group of blokes pushing and shoving one another) on the pitch between the players.
The Lilywhites will be heading to the University of Bolton stadium with the backing of a sold-out away end and harbouring hopes of a similar result to last season’s trip down the M61 to Bolton which saw the three points coming back to Deepdale. Mark Beevers fired Bolton in front after a David Wheater header was kept out but Beevers stuck in the follow-up after 12 minutes. Tom Barkhuizen pulled North End back level inside ten minutes of half time when Callum Robinson slid him through with a fine through ball and he slotted into the far corner of the goal. The introduction of Sean Maguire for Billy Bodin on 65 minutes changed the game in North End’s favour. The Irish hitman had been out since November with an injury and he wound up hitting two goals inside twenty minutes to seal a 3-1 victory.
This win against Bolton moved us to within 3 points of the Championship play-offs and we all know how that panned out in the end but, perhaps with a win this Saturday and some results going our way, however unlikely it seems, it could maybe, just maybe, kick start a march toward the top 6 for us.
In terms of North End heading into this game, I don’t expect much change. The back 5 pretty much picks itself at the minute and the back four has a nice balance to it with both left and right footed centre-halves in Ben Davies and Jordan Storey playing on their correct sides alongside their fullbacks. Fisher’s return to form over the last few games is timely, too. Perhaps the competition for that spot has resulted in his performances returning to what we so frequently saw last season.
The only change I could see happening is Stockley dropping to the bench, Maguire pushing up through the middle and Barkhuizen coming into the side on the left side. I also wouldn’t be surprised, nor have any complaints, if Alex Neil names an unchanged side for the fourth game in a row.
This is the bit where I hand over to a fan of the opposition. This week, the chaps over at Burnden Aces have provided us with the opposition view.
Despite last season’s dramatic final-day escape from relegation – an afternoon that will live forever in the memories of those who were there – it was difficult to put a prediction on how Bolton would progress in their second campaign back in the Championship.
An opening day trip to West Bromwich Albion provided a cause for concern, yet we somehow came away from The Hawthorns with a smash-and-grab 2-1 victory courtesy of goals from debutants Josh Magennis and Yanic Wildschut. A 2-2 draw at home to Bristol City followed, before back-to-back wins over Reading and Birmingham City put us amongst the early-season contenders for those automatic promotion places.
Even the most optimistic Wanderers supporter couldn’t have dreamed of such a start and although it was obvious the bubble would burst eventually, the rate of the club’s on-field collapse mirrored the sorry state they have found themselves in off the field.
Phil Parkinson’s side would win just two of their next 21 games before the end of 2018, and they have lost four of their five league outings since the turn of the year – collectively amassing a total of 13 points from the last 78 available.
Trotters followers have grown tired of the club’s displays and are actively staying away from matches, while chairman Ken Anderson has been on the receiving end of some heavy criticism – with regular threats of winding-up orders, late payment of wages and an apparent lack of urgency to conclude a sale leading to a reported 4,000 people to protest prior to a recent televised fixture.
Bolton are dropping like a stone at present and have only two senior forwards at their disposal – Magennis and Clayton Donaldson – who have failed to find a Championship scoresheet since September.
Preston, like many others before them, will travel to the University of Bolton Stadium expecting to pick up all three points on Saturday, and you wouldn’t find too many Wanderers fans expecting anything different!
Finally, with a number of injuries to first-team regulars, I would expect a team something along the lines of this:
Remi Matthews (GK)
David Wheater (C)
For the second time in a month Andy Madley will be taking charge of a North End game, the previous one coming away at QPR on January 19th which saw the Lilywhites win 4-1 at Loftus Road. Andy Madley has been in charge of some of the best games in North End’s recent history including the Leqgue One play-off final at Wembley at the end of the 2014/15 season.
He also took charge of two other Preston games this season, the 2-2 draw at home against Stoke City in August and the home game against Blackburn Rovers in which, much like the QPR game, we ran out 4-1 winners. How do you think the game will pan out tomorrow? Will we be coming away from Horwich with all three points? Give us a follow on twitter and let us know! Or just tweet us to say hi! 👋