Throughout the second half of the 2018/19 season, millwallfc.co.uk will be analysing The Lions' opponents by taking a look back at their campaign so far. As Millwall prepare to take on Bolton Wanderers at the University of Bolton Stadium, we look at The Trotters’ recent results.
Bolton Wanderers fans could have been forgiven in the summer for pinching themselves at retaining their Championship status for 2018/19, having done so in remarkable circumstances with two late goals on the final day of 2017/18, dramatically staying afloat. The target for manager Phil Parkinson this time around was to maintain the same standard, potentially going one better and staying relatively clear of any trouble in what is admittedly one of the strongest second tiers there have ever been. Numerous free acquisitions and departures took place at the University of Bolton (UoB) Stadium, with players such as Clayton Donaldson, Erhun Oztumer and Jason Lowe arriving, as well as Josh Magennis for a fee. The likes of Dorian Dervite, Karl Henry and Darren Pratley left the club, alongside Adam Le Fondre who moved to Australia, and Ben Amos who arrived at Millwall on loan. Pre-season brought mixed results on the pitch, with wins over Peterborough United and FC Halifax Town, draws with Morecambe and Spanish outfit Girona, and a defeat at Guiseley.
In what has been a tough League season so far for The Trotters, the start to the campaign was a promising one. The first fixture of the season pitted Parkinson’s men away at recently relegated West Bromwich Albion – pulling off a shock 2-1 win at The Hawthorns. The club opened their home campaign with a 2-2 draw against Bristol City, albeit having taken a 2-0 lead in the second half. A late solitary winner at Reading restored winning form, following a narrow Carabao Cup First Round loss at Leeds United. Another 1-0 win, this time at home to Birmingham City, left Bolton in an impressive third after four games. Unfortunately for Trotters fans, the form was unable to last as a 3-0 home loss to Sheffield United spelt the start of a rut in which the side would win just one more before Christmas.
September began with a positive point for Bolton, recovering from 2-0 down to take a draw at neighbours Preston North End. Successive defeats against QPR and Middlesbrough after the international break dropped The Trotters to 15th, before a goalless draw at Ipswich Town and a spirit-lifting 1-0 win over Derby County. This was to be the team’s last victory for nearly three months.
Difficulties in front of goal proved to be Bolton’s undoing during October, with the team managing to find the target just once. Defeats to Stoke City (2-0) and Blackburn Rovers (1-0) started the month, before loanee Christian Doidge hit his first Wanderers goal away at Rotherham United to secure a sole point. Home defeats without consolation against Nottingham Forest and Hull City wrapped up October, with the club sat 19th in a tight bottom six of the Championship table.
November saw Bolton again claim just a single point, albeit with only four games played. The point – unfortunately for Millwall – came at The Den in a match Bolton led for 70 minutes. Defeats without scoring against Aston Villa and Swansea City dropped Bolton to second-bottom of the table, before their visit to SE16. Former Lions man Mark Beevers put Wanderers in front early on at The Den, before a late equaliser from Jake Cooper as he turned home Jiri Skalak’s shot. A narrow 1-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday rounded off November ahead of a busy Christmas schedule.
December’s mission to improve form for The Trotters began with a local derby fixture against Wigan Athletic at the UoB Stadium, ending in a 1-1 share of the spoils. Bolton then came up with two goals away at title-chasing Norwich City, but were denied anything from the game with a last-gasp Canaries winner. Successive 1-0 losses to Leeds and Brentford kept Bolton adrift, before the side secured their first win since September on Boxing Day – a 2-1 victory over Rotherham on home soil. A goalless home draw with Stoke City rounded off 2018 with Bolton outside of the relegation places.
Despite the recent improved fortunes for Parkinson’s side on the pitch with four points from a possible six, the New Year began in the worst way possible. The Trotters shipped six at Hull City – five within a 21-minute second-half spell – to fall back into the relegation zones. It was however time to find their shooting boots as the Emirates FA Cup Third Round got underway, with Wanderers ruthlessly slamming five second-half goals past Walsall at the UoB Stadium, Josh Magennis’ hat-trick doing the business. A 2-0 League defeat to West Brom and a 2-1 loss at Bristol City after taking the lead were followed by another visit to Ashton Gate in the Fourth Round of the Cup. Again, The Trotters took the lead, but City were able to turn the game around to take the victory, subsequently ending Bolton’s domestic Cup exploits. A late Jack Hobbs equaliser then denied survival rivals Reading victory at the UoB Stadium, a potentially crucial point. Remi Matthews and Callum Connolly were brought in during the January transfer window to strengthen the squad, whilst striker Doidge was controversially returned to parent club Forest Green Rovers.
Throughout February and the early stages of March, Bolton have remained 23rd, and currently sit seven points adrift of safety. The Trotters’ last six matches have resulted in two 2-0 defeats (Sheffield United and Swansea), two 2-1 losses (Leeds and Preston), a 4-0 reverse to League leaders Norwich and an impressive 1-0 win at Birmingham courtesy of Connolly’s first goal for the club. The loyal support of the fans has been a shining light despite their struggles, with flickers of hope remaining that form can turn around at the UoB Stadium.