|Bolton Wanderers 1 v 2 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 6th April 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Lambert: We Just Prepared for the Game as Normal
Saturday, 6th Apr 2019 07:40
Blues boss Paul Lambert says Town prepared for Saturday’s game away against second-bottom Bolton Wanderers as they would normally, despite the match having been cast into doubt midway through the week due to the Trotters’ ongoing off-field problems.
As previously reported, the University of Bolton Stadium’s safety certificate was withdrawn on Tuesday with Wanderers unable to confirm that they would be able to adequately staff Saturday’s match until after a High Court appearance on Wednesday.
That hearing, which related to £1.2 million owed to HMRC and other debts, was adjourned until May 8th to allow time for a takeover by ex-Watford owner Laurence Bassini to be completed.
Meanwhile, the Bolton players has staged a 48-hour walk-out in protest that staff wages - as well as their own - had not been paid last Friday.
On Thursday morning, after an emergency meeting of the Safety Advisory Group the previous evening and the payment of the off-field staff’s wages, the prohibition notice on the stadium was withdrawn and it was confirmed that the match would take place as planned.
Town manager Lambert, speaking prior to Friday when problems with the IT system at the University of Bolton Stadium again put the game in jeopardy, says situations of this type don’t have an impact on the other club ahead of a game.
“No, I don’t ever think anybody else is bothered, it’s Bolton’s [issue] I can’t comment on what’s happened up there,” he said.
“It can’t be nice up there, what’s going on, there’s probably a lot of animosity there and we’ve got the total opposite.
"You’d think we’re at the top of the league the way things are at the training ground and the stadium, but we just prepared for the game as normal.”
On the effect the Trotters’ current struggles will have on the local community, Lambert added: “Bolton to be fair have got a few teams around them up there, so they’re in a catchment area where there’s a lot of clubs, whereas we have only us here.
“I saw the impact before we came in that the fans were uninterested and the apathy at the club and things not going right. It can affect everybody and I just thought, ‘Why’s it happening?’ and have tried to bring everybody together.
“And we’ve done that here without getting the results, but the feeling at the club is really good.
“But up in Bolton it may be a bit different they’ve got many, many clubs up that neck of the woods.”
Even if, as now seems certain, the Blues, without a win in 12 and having won only three times this season, are relegated to League One, Lambert is determined that Town won’t finish at the foot of the table.
Second-bottom Bolton are currently eight points ahead of his table-propping side, with the Blues still 13 points plus goal difference from 21st place and safety.
“We’ll do everything we can not to finish bottom,” he insisted. “The pleasing thing for me is that we're playing well.
“Even on Saturday [in the 2-0 home defeat to Hull City] when we had two cleared off the line I thought this was going to be one of those days and we weren’t going to get the breaks again.
“We had so much of the ball. I’m not one really into stats but you can't have 600-odd passes in a game, 15 shots, six on target and no goals. They had three and scored two.
“It just doesn’t add up but that’s been the story more or less the whole time. We shouldn’t have drawn games, let alone anything else. But that’s been the story of it.”
Will he approach this game any differently? “We’ll just go for it, it’s the only way I know. The support don’t want to go all that way just to watch us play 4-4-2 and sit behind the ball or 4-5-1 or only play on the counter-attack.
“That’s alright if we’re playing Man City because you’re doing all you can to keep it down to 10, but I don’t want to go there and sit and wait.
“We’re playing well and we’re young, we’ve got energy and we’ll just go and do what we’ve always been doing.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will continue in goal with James Bree and Myles Kenlock again set to be the full-backs.
Luke Chambers will be one of the centre-halves, while James Collins could return alongside the skipper for Toto Nsiala having returned to fitness, although Lambert could opt to stick with the former Shrewsbury man having praised him at his press conference on Thursday.
In midfield, Cole Skuse will probably continue in the deeper role with Teddy Bishop perhaps likely to return to the XI for Jon Nolan, who is expected to miss out with the achilles injury he suffered last week.
Andre Dozzell is another contender to replace Nolan having come off the bench against the Tigers, while Trevoh Chalobah will probably again start in the other midfield role, although Flynn Downes will also be looking to return to the XI and Idris El Mizouni will hope to make his full debut before the end of the season.
Up front, Will Keane seems more likely to be a sub than a starter having returned to training this week following his hamstring injury, so Lambert will have to choose between Collin Quaner and Kayden Jackson for the central striking role.
Alan Judge, having signed his new two-year deal, and Gwion Edwards are likely to continue in the wide positions.
Bolton boss Phil Parkinson is looking for his side to build on last week’s 2-1 win at QPR, only their third victory in their last 13 Championship games, as they try to make up a gap of five points plus goal difference to safety.
“Without a doubt people will start to dream if we beat Ipswich,” he told Bolton News.
“And it’s up to us to build on it, we’ve got to make sure we don’t look at it and say ‘Oh, Ipswich are below us, we’ve just got to turn up and beat them’, because wins are so hard to get.
“Look at how hard the lads have had to fight for [the QPR] victory – and we’ve got to take that into [the Ipswich match], and be solid and tight as a team first and foremost.
“I’m very pleased with them, the manner of the display and the support we got from the fans as well, right from the first minute to the last and I thank them for that.
“We’ve closed the gap but we’re not going to get too carried away with that, it was just so important for Bolton Wanderers and this group – after getting beat by our local rivals two weeks earlier – to respond in the right way, and we’ve done that.”
Bolton have doubts over defender Jack Hobbs (back), midfielder Luke Murphy (calf) and winger Yanic Wildschut (ankle), while midfielder Jason Lowe is out for the season having damaged ankle ligaments.
Historically, the Blues just have the edge, having won 19 times (17 in the league), Bolton 13 (nine) and with 12 (11) games between the teams ending in draws.
Town are unbeaten in 11 against Bolton, winning six and drawing five. Their last defeat was a 3-1 reverse in the FA Cup at Portman Road in January 2005.
The Trotters’ last league win against the Blues was the 4-1 victory in Lancashire towards the end of 2001/02 which all but confirmed Town’s relegation from the Premier League. Earlier that season, they recorded their last league victory at Portman Road when they won 2-1.
The teams last met at Portman Road in September when Town recorded their fifth successive home draw at the start of the season as Bolton left Portman Road following a hard-fought 0-0 stalemate, despite having been a man down for 47 minutes.
The Trotters lost Marc Wilson to a red card on 34 after he hauled down Jackson but the Blues only created one serious chance - a Chambers header brilliantly saved by Ben Alnwick - having been reduced to 10 men themselves late on when Jon Walters suffered an injury which ended his Town loan, and ultimately his career, with all three substitutions already having been made.
Last time in Bolton, in January last year, Joe Garner netted an equaliser in the 82nd minute as Town and Bolton drew 1-1, the first Blues league game to end in that scoreline for 34 matches. Earlier, Gary Madine had given the home side the lead on 53.
Former Blues loanee Callum Connolly joined Bolton in January, having been on loan from Everton at Wigan during the first half of the season.
The defender or midfielder made 30 starts and five sub appearances during a successful loan spell with Town last season.
Saturday’s referee is Peter Bankes from Merseyside, who has shown 148 yellow cards and four red in 34 games so far this season.
Bankes’s most recent Town match was the 3-0 defeat at Norwich in February in which he sent Blues boss Lambert and Canaries head of performance Chris Domogalla to the stands following the fracas between the benches just before half-time. He also booked Skuse, Nolan and Flynn Downes as well as four Canaries.
Coincidentally, he was also the referee for the 1-1 draw at Bolton in January last year in which he booked Dominic Iorfa and home striker Madine.
Before that he was in charge of the 2-0 home win against Reading the previous month in which he booked Jonas Knudsen, Martyn Waghorn and Adam Webster as well as four Royals.
He also refereed the 2-0 home defeat to Nottingham Forest in November 2016 in which he booked David McGoldrick and two visiting players.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 0-0 draw at Wolves three months earlier in which one of his linesmen disallowed what replays showed was a perfectly good Daryl Murphy goal.
He also awarded the home side a penalty after Webster had fouled Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, but Bialkowski saved the Icelander’s spotkick, and booked seven players, five of them from Town: Knudsen, Chambers, Bishop, Christophe Berra and sub Kevin Bru.
Bankes, who is in his fourth season as an EFL referee, had officiated in two Town games before that one, January 2016’s 0-0 draw at Burnley, in which he cautioned two Clarets, and the 2-2 home draw with Bristol City in September 2015 in which he booked three of the visitors.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Bree, Emmanuel, Spence, Kenlock, Collins, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Nsiala, Skuse, Chalobah, Downes, Dozzell, Bishop, El Mizouni, Edwards, Dawkins, Judge, Quaner, Jackson, Keane.
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