Bolton v West Brom Preview: Moore warns Albion against complacency
Albion lost seven games in a row after last year’s mid-season trip, but the environment now is a polar opposite to those dark days.
It is tonight’s opponents who are in crisis this time, with Darren Moore simply searching for a first win in four games after a mini-blip in form.
The most crucial thing will be managing the toxic atmosphere at the University of Bolton Stadium, because the unhappy home fans are planning a protest.
But Moore has warned his side not to take the Bolton team for granted either, because they will be desperate to appease their own crowd.
“From Bolton we expect a fully-committed performance in front of their home support,” said Moore.
“There will be willingness from them to really work hard and be a difficult opponent.
“We will need to be at our best if we are to continue the impressive form we have shown. We will need to set about them and set our match tempo.”
Albion will be firm favourites for this match but Moore has guarded against complacency.
The Baggies were also expected to beat Bolton on the opening day, when Phil Parkinson’s team gave them a rude awakening to life in the Championship with a last-gasp winner.
“If you think that you have an easy game then the Championship will have you at its peril,” said Moore.
“It’s a division that on any day, if you’re not quite right, we’ve seen results – and not just ours – across the division from the top to the bottom, teams can suffer unusual results where the outside world has pitched them as favourites.
“You will never hear me as a head coach – for any fixture this season – say that we are favourites because it doesn’t work like that.”
Despite Moore’s warning, and the distraction of off-field issues, this does look like a welcoming fixture for the Baggies.
The Baggies should also be at full tilt after nine days off and a trip to Dubai for some Vitamin D.
“One or two who were nursing bruises and muscle strains, it gives them extra time to recover which could be all the difference,” said Moore.
“Hopefully this has given one or two the opportunity to overcome those slight knocks so they can perform to their full potential.”
Not everyone is guaranteed to be fit as Albion bid to keep in touch with the top two.
Matt Phillips is unlikely to feature because of an ankle injury and James Morrison’s calf strain will be assessed late on.
Jake Livermore serves the third match of his four-game suspension, which means 18-year-old Rekeem Harper could keep his place in the team after encouraging back-to-back performances against Wigan and Norwich.
If Albion replicate that performance against the Canaries against Bolton, they should be too strong for Parkinson’s men. Should be.
Protests for the Opponents
Bolton Wanderers are a club in crisis, embroiled in a civil war while desperately trying to fight off relegation.
Not only has unpopular owner Ken Anderson fallen out with supporters, he has banned local journalists from the ground, and entered into a public spat with another football club chairman.
Wages have been paid late and a number of winding up petitions have been lodged against the club, which has lurched from one financial problem to another under Anderson’s reign.
A series of strange and bullish late-night statements from Anderson quoting Winston Churchill and poet John Lydgate have not been well received by a disillusioned fanbase who now plan to protest.
The supporters have chosen this game to act, because it is being televised and should therefore have the maximum impact.
Bolton have responded, and issued a statement in the build-up to the game warning fans to protest peacefully and not disrupt play.
They have threatened those who overstep the mark with court appearances and banning orders, and supporters from both sides can expect ‘additional searches’ on entrance to the ground.
While all this rumbles on in the background, manager Phil Parkinson is attempting to pull off a miracle and keep the Wanderers up.
After picking up 10 points from their first four games, Bolton have won just two of their last 23 league fixtures. They’ve won just one of their last 17.
“I can’t say it helps,” admitted Parkinson, ahead of the Albion game. “Things have happened where the chairman wants to respond and get his side of the story out there, which he’s obviously entitled to do that as he’s the owner of the club.
“But I just think once the dust has settled on this particular episode and we hopefully get it resolved with the Football League, we need a clear run from now to the end of the season.
“We don’t want to be in the papers having publicity for the wrong reasons.
“We are going to need all our energy to stay in this division. I think it’s clear to everybody the challenge that lies ahead of us and we need everybody – rather than focusing on other things – focusing on the football and what we have got to do.”
To make matters worse, Bolton are sweating on the fitness of first-choice keeper Ben Alnwick, who has a hip problem.
However, Wanderers signed goalkeper Remi Matthews on an 18-month contract last Friday after a registration embargo was lifted, allowing them to complete the deal.
“We are very pleased that Remi has completed his move,” said Parkinson. “He’s a young keeper who brings real quality for the number one shirt and it’s great to have him back up here.”
Josh Magennis, Bolton's top scorer with seven goals this season, stunned The Hawthorns with the opening goal in August's 2-1 win over the Baggies.
Althought the Northern Irishman hasn't notched in the league since September, he nagged a hat-trick against Walsall in the third round of the FA Cup.
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