Gus Poyet and his Brighton side have been in and around the play-off zone for the majority of the season. They made a similar start to the season 12 months ago but a touch of naivety and a lack of experience at this level ultimately cost them. They ended up finishing in 10th position so the manager will be expecting improvement on that this time around. Currently one place and point off sixth placed, they are coming into a very important stage of the campaign which could shape the rest of their season. Saturday’s match will be the first of eight in the space of five weeks. They face several sides who are close to them in the league and one’s who will hold similar aspirations to their own.
Bolton were my pre season tips to earn promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. I felt that Owen Coyle had a squad packed full of quality players and would excel at this level. Unfortunately for me – and anyone else who followed me in – things have not quiet turned out that way. Coyle is now out of a job and Bolton are languishing in the bottom half of the table. Dougie Freedman was recruited from Palace to turn things around but he’s been unable to find the consistency needed to climb the table. Despite that, there have been promising signs, including a victory over Cardiff and their current run of four games unbeaten which includes draws against Blackpool and Leicester. Like their opponents on Saturday Bolton are beginning a crucial set of fixtures which will definitely determine whether or not they can mount a realistic run for promotion – they need to start winning games on a regular basis to stand any chance, however.
There’s been a noticeable change in Poyet’s approach in recent weeks as the Seagulls have become more adventurous. Their last two sets of five games have saw very different performances with the first set of five producing just five goals in total and a return of two points; whilst their most recent handful of games have witnessed 16 goals, amassing nine points. It should signal a similar approach on Saturday as they have looked much more threatening and the only disappointment recently has been conceding late goals against Wolves and Blackpool, costing them another four points.
I’m convinced Bolton are capable of find the consistency needed to propel them up the table and that they have the squad (both in terms of quality and depth) to do this. Freedman is slowly beginning to mould a side which is hard to beat but contains plenty of attacking threat. A striker himself, Freedman will be doing a lot of work with his front men in an attempt to improve their goal tally. Their four strikers have managed just eight goals between them and midfielder Chris Eagles remains the top goalscorer with six.
Seven of Bolton’s last nine matches have resulted in at least three goals, which, allied to Brighton’s last five having produced 16, suggests there will be plenty of opportunities for goals tomorrow. Bolton know they need to start winning games and usually score away from home (scored in eight of their nine away Championship games) which should result in an open game and I can see this match going over once again.
Over 2.5 goals 10/11 @ Coral