Just as Bolton were starting to pick up a bit of momentum, with the first win of the season surely on the horizon, Keith Hill’s side have been lumbered with an international break due to a number of players leaving for national team duty in both Bolton and Burton’s squads.
While it’s frustrating that the rest of League One will be in action over the weekend, it’s a good time to take stock and look back at the season to date.
With 10 matches played, the contrast between the first and second half of those matches has been staggering.
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Bolton began the campaign with a very uncertain future. Unlike neighbours Bury, Wanderers were given permission to start the season but could only manage to field a team of youngsters alongside a small handful of senior pros.
After an opening day defeat, Bolton battled to one of the greatest 0-0 draws we’ll ever see as Phil Parkinson and Nicky Spooner (Bolton’s U18s manager) led the side to its first point of the season against Coventry.
The remaining matches in Phil Parkinson’s tenure were far less successful and after he departed on August 21, academy boss Jimmy Phillips couldn’t bring about a change in fortunes either with Wanderers shipping an eye-watering 15 goals in three matches.
The second half of Bolton’s short season to date has been far more fortuitous.
After months of negotiations, new owners Football Ventures finally got their deal through and brought a huge wave of optimism along with them thanks to the arrival of Keith Hill, David Flitcroft and a whole swathe of new players.
However, it was a baptism of fire for the new Bolton boss and his new squad as Wanderers fell to their worst defeat of the season yet, 6-1 away at Rotherham.
Since then, thankfully, Bolton have conceded just twice in four games.
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We’ve seen a huge change in attitude from Bolton’s players since Hill took charge, gone is the hoofball mentality instilled in them by Phil Parkinson and replacing it is a much slicker style that is a joy to watch.
The effort on show from Wanderers’ players has increased dramatically and has seen some impressive results posted with draws against Oxford, Sunderland and Blackpool.
All Bolton are lacking now, with 34 matches still to play, are the goals to win matches. But after picking up three points in his first five games in charge, Keith Hill must surely be pleased with the progress the side is making.
It’s a far cry from where we found ourselves at the start of the 2019/20 season and there is a small amount of hope that we can see Bolton pull off the Great Escape 2.0 but with a gap of 17 points to safety, it’ll be no mean feat.
In a sense, Keith Hill has saved Bolton as his no-nonsense attitude and desire to improve has seen Wanderers playing some of the best football we’ve seen in years. However, whether or not Keith Hill’s Bolton side can escape the clutches of relegation remains to be seen.