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Wolves v Bolton preview: Staying grounded the key for Nuno's men

By Tim Spiers | Wolves | Published:

Only five other Championship teams this century have earned 41 points or more from the opening 18 matches of the season.

Wolves' Ruben Neves and Bolton's Karl Henry

Wolves did it in 2008 on their way to the title. Sheffield United, Reading (both 2005), Portsmouth (2002) and Fulham (2000) are the others. Every single team won promotion.

The good people at Goodbrand Stats worked out that statistical nugget and they also point out that it took Wolves until April 1 last season to win as many games (13) as they have already this term.

Whatever way you look at it, Wolves are currently on course to do something special this term.

And with three of the league's four worst teams providing their opposition in the next two weeks, Nuno Espirito Santo's team will be confident of extending their four-point lead at the top of the table before Christmas.

However as any Wolves fan who lived through the Devon Loch-style collapse of 2002 knows – when Albion overturned an 11-point deficit to overhaul Wolves and win promotion – nothing can be taken for granted.

All and sundry may be proclaiming Wolves as champions-elect already but if the players start thinking that way there's only one direction in which they'll travel.

Nuno's men are certainly saying the right things in public, while their boss won't even entertain the idea of talking about the league table or looking further ahead than their next match.

And for a warning sign tomorrow consider the fact that only one of the two teams on show has gone unbeaten for seven matches – and it's not Wolves.

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Douglas epitomised the messages of the squad when he said: "I won the championship in Poland and it was similar but I’ve also been up there and know how fast it can change as well.

"I think that’s why the gaffer is keeping us grounded – he knows if we take our foot off the gas it can change so fast, especially in this league.

"It’s a nice lead going into the next game but it’s just another game, we won’t get carried away and we look forward to Saturday."

After 29,000 turned up for Tuesday's 4-1 win over Leeds – the biggest midweek Molineux attendance for 13 years – another good crowd is expected for tomorrow's game.

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Douglas, who was pleased to get on the scoresheet on Tuesday night, said attendances were giving the players a lift.

"You see the boost it gives the players to play in front of at atmosphere like that," he added.

"It’s what you want and it’s a pleasure. We want the fans to keep coming and giving us that atmosphere because it does help and gives us a boost.

"I’m happy that I’m contributing but as long as we’re winning that’s the most important thing.

"If I’d scored on Tuesday and we didn’t win it would have counted for nothing.

"I scored and we won so I could enjoy it a bit more.

"We’re playing well and we know on our day we’re a match for anyone and we’ll create chances."

As for Bolton, when they lost 1-0 at Villa Park in September it looked like their return to the Championship was unravelling into a nightmare.

At that point Phil Parkinson’s team had yet to win a single game and earned just two points from 11 matches.

Since then an unexpected revival has taken place. Bolton have gone unbeaten in their next seven, winning two and hauling themselves above Sunderland to move within two points of the safety line, after being seven adrift on 21st following that Villa Park reverse.

It’s an impressive turnaround, one which has fans believing they can compete in the second tier.

On paper Bolton’s squad certainly possesses enough talented players to do so.

Sammy Ameobi, Will Buckley and Craig Noone have all made an impact in the league before, while Newcastle loan striker Adam Armstrong is a big prospect who hasn’t yet found his goalscoring feet at Championship level but has time on his side aged 20.

There’s also an ex-Wolves contingent to be wary of in the form of former defender Mark Little, Adam Le Fondre, who netted against Wolves for Wigan last season, as well as ex-Molineux captain Karl Henry, who joined the Trotters on a free transfer in September.

Bolton would be out of the bottom three had they not blown a two-goal lead at home to Reading on Tuesday evening when Jaap Stam’s team scored twice in the final 14 minutes.

Parkinson was of course disappointed with that result but feels his team have made big strides in recent weeks.

“The team has vastly improved from where we were earlier in the season,” he said.

“We look like we can score, we look a more dangerous team.

“Yes, we’ve been a bit flat, as you can imagine, but we’ll pick ourselves up and go to Wolves at the weekend.”

Former Sheffield Wednesday defender Mark Beevers will be back in the squad tomorrow after suspension, while Le Fondre, Noone and Buckley are options to come into the XI.

Predicted line ups

Wolves (3-4-3): John Ruddy; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Saiss, Neves, Douglas; Cavaleiro, Bonatini, Jota. Subs: Norris, Batth, Miranda, Price, N'Diaye, Costa, Enobakhare.

Bolton (4-2-3-1): Alnwick; Little, Wheater, Burke, Robinson; Pratley, Henry; Ameobi, Vela, Armstrong; Madine.

Key players

Wolves – Romain Saiss: Patience may be required against a Bolton team that will be set up to frustrate Wolves. Romain Saiss has been in great form and can unlock the Trotters' defence.

Bolton – Sammy Ameobi: Former Newcastle winger who joined Bolton on a free transfer in the summer after spending time with the Trotters on loan last season. The 25-year-old scored against Wolves for Cardiff last year shortly after they tried to sign him and has netted three times in nine games this term.

Memory lane

Nenad Milijas sent a 25-yarder into the corner when Wolves beat Bolton 2-1 in the Premier League in 2009, after Jody Craddock had opened the scoring at Molineux.

Past five meetings

February 2, 2016 (Ch): Wolves 2 (Mason 3, Henry 77) Bolton 2 (Wellington 81, Dobbie 88)

September 12, 2015 (Ch): Bolton 2 (Feeney 17, Clough pen 45) Wolves 1 (Afobe pen 68)

January 31, 2015 (Ch): Bolton 2 (Clough, 23, 25) Wolves 2 (Dicko 3, Henry 90)

September 20, 2014 (Ch): Wolves 1 (Dicko 42) Bolton 0

April 6, 2013 (Ch): Bolton 2 (Ngog 3, Alonso 10) Wolves 0

Tim Spiers

By Tim Spiers
@tim_spiers_Star

Writes about Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club for a living

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