PHIL Parkinson has urged his BOLTON side to pile the pressure on Sheffield United as Wanderers kick off another busy week in League One away to the league leaders.
Bolton are 7 points behind the Blades in 3rd, but they have 2 games in hand and can make up some ground over the coming week as most League One sides are playing on Tuesday night too.
The Trotters earned a 2-2 draw away to promotion rivals Bradford last week, which made it 7 points in a week. With no midweek game this week, Bolton have had a chance to recuperate before visiting Sheffield United.
Last week’s top-of-the-table clash there with Scunthorpe attracted the biggest League One crowd of the season, with 27,980 seeing a 1-1 draw. Blades boss Chris Wilder feels he’s now built a side capable of coping with the weight of expectation at Bramall Lane but Parkinson is keen to put that to the test this Saturday.
“We came through last week unscathed and it’ll be a similar type of atmosphere,” said the Bolton boss. “A big crowd is expected and at the start of the season these are the games you want to be involved in. We’ve worked hard to be a team challenging at the top end of this division and we’re looking to put in a very good performance at the weekend.
“We’ve beaten Sheffield United twice this season (in the FA Cup too) and we’ve got to take that with us into this game, even though it’s away from home. Bramall Lane’s a ground with a fantastic atmosphere and we’ve got to look to make the crowd a bit anxious. There is an underlying tension there because they’ve been in the division so long (6 years).”
New signing Reece Wabara isn’t quite fit enough to be considered but could be for the next 2 games – at home to Bristol Rovers (Tuesday) and AFC Wimbledon (Saturday).
OLDHAM and BURY now sit outside the bottom 4 after they also took 7 points from their last 9. Latics were already out of the relegation zone before last week’s 0-0 draw at Swindon and they are back at home tomorrow against 7th-placed Millwall, who last week beat Leicester to reach the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Youth product Chris Taylor left Oldham for Millwall in 2012 and returned last month on loan from Bolton. The 30-year-old winger has now clocked up 5 straight starts for Latics, helping them stretch their recent run to 5 wins from 9 since John Sheridan’s return as manager.
“We can’t complain with that, but after the weekend we only find ourselves a point above the drop zone so there’s a lot of work to be done yet,” said Taylor. “Millwall are a fantastic club, they’re doing really well in the FA Cup and the league, and I hope they carry on doing that till the end of the season – just after Saturday.
“They’re a big threat from set-pieces, they’ve got some big lads and are quite tight at the back, but we’ll take confidence from the performances we’ve had at home. At the minute we fancy ourselves against anyone on our own patch and Saturday will be no different. They’re a top-6 side for this league so we know how difficult it’ll be but if we can play our game we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
Latics then visit Northampton (Tuesday) and Walsall (Saturday), both sides that are currently mid-table.
ROCHDALE are 3 points behind Millwall in 8th and hope for a 1st win in 8 as they visit a Peterborough side which is just a point behind them. Dale then have back-to-back home games against Port Vale (Tuesday) and Sheffield United (Saturday).
BURY came from behind at relegation rivals Chesterfield last week to give new manager Lee Clark a winning start. He did say he wouldn’t make drastic changes after the Shakers took 4 points from their last 2 games under interim boss Chris Brass and Clark is sticking by that ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Charlton.
“Why change something that’s not broken?” he asked. “The performance was outstanding so you don’t change it. It’d be silly. I’m not here to reinvent the wheel. The team are playing well, that’s 7 points from 9, you can see the players’ confidence is coming back, so things don’t need to be changed.
“We’ve got some very talented players and I liked their never-say-die attitude (at Chesterfield). My assistant (Alan Thompson) has spoken to me about the togetherness of the staff and the players, down to the subs who haven’t been used and even the lads who are back at the training ground getting treatment for injuries – they’re wishing everyone good luck on the WhatsApp group so it tells me that the group is very united.”
The Shakers then host rock-bottom Coventry (Tuesday) and 18th-placed Gillingham, although WIGAN don’t have a midweek game in the Championship.
Latics are 3rd-bottom, 2 points from safety, so victory tomorrow at home to Nottingham Forest, who are 18th and lost at the DW Stadium in the FA Cup last month, could lift Warren Joyce’s men out of the drop zone.