Keith Hill’s Bolton Wanderers defied all expectations in midweek when they were held to a draw by Oxford United. This weekend, however, Wanderers face a much tougher test in the form of Sunderland.
The Black Cats, who currently sit fourth in League One, travel to the UniBol on Saturday and will be a far more daunting task for Keith Hill’s men than lowly Oxford United.
However, if the Trotters can improve yet again, just as they did against Oxford, then anything could be possible.
Bolton have had a long and storied history against Sunderland. It’s a fixture that dates back to 1890 and has seen the teams face off a whopping 147 times.
Unfortunately for Wanderers, Sunderland have been the victors on 62 occasions while Bolton have won the encounter 50 times.
Encouragingly, Bolton have not lost against Sunderland in their last five meetings since 2012.
Sunderland come into the weekend’s game with 15 points from their first eight games while Bolton have picked up just two in seven games this season and remain on -10 points.
During the week, Sunderland took on Rotherham and, unlike Bolton, came away with a point after a 1-1 draw.
Chris Maguire, formerly of Bury before his move last summer, currently stands as Sunderland’s top scorer with four goals so far this campaign and as such will be one for Bolton’s defence to watch closely.
With hopefully no new injuries to speak of after Tuesday’s draw against Oxford, Keith Hill should be able to name an unchanged side against the Black Cats.
However, the arrival of Daryl Murphy and Chris O’Grady cannot come soon enough with Wanderers on the hunt for goals.
The attacking duo have been out injured since arriving at Bolton and are yet to make their debuts and may not for some time as Keith Hill wants them to return in good health.
While the visit of Sunderland is going to be a hugely tough test for Bolton, there is a degree of optimism seeping back into the club again which makes a refreshing change from last year when the club almost fell into administration at this point 12 months ago.
The chances of Bolton actually beating the Black Cats looks slim but we always live in hope.
As long as Keith Hill’s players put in a battling performance and can replicate some of the football shown against Oxford, we should still be in for an entertaining match.