Bolton Match Zone

Bolton Face Tough COVID Return


Bolton are finally back from their enforced winter break – tomorrow they’re set to travel to the New York Stadium to take on Rotherham.

It is still a difficult situation for Ian Evatt’s men, COVID has take its toll on some of its victims, but we have a sufficient number of players available and the match goes on. You wouldn’t hand-pick Rotherham away to be the first game back either, given they’re up the right end of the table.

IAN EVATT | Wanderers manager previews Rotherham United New Year’s Day clash – YouTube

Team news

Will Aimson and Amadou Bakayoko are both available – Aimson was one of the earlier COVID cases in the club’s outbreak, while Bakayoko had been set for a return from his ankle injury prior to the Christmas shutdown. Ricardo Santos should be back after suspension, but Gethin Jones and Andrew Tutte are still definitely out, as is Xavier Amaechi, whose loan has seemingly been extended but can’t be confirmed until after the weekend. Also, will Eoin Doyle be involved, given his possible departure for Ireland?

Possible XI: Dixon; Gordon, Almeida Santos, Aimson, John; Williams, Johnston; Kachunga, Thomason, Afolayan; Bakayoko

Last time out

We’ve never had any enjoyment at Rotherham and our last visit there was no exception. In September 2019 we went there for Keith Hill’s first proper game in charge, with six of the starting XI signings he had made in a single day less than two weeks previous. One of those was Thibaud Verlinden, who gave us a fourth minute lead, but then things crumbled as Ben Wiles, Freddie Ladapo and Carlton Morris scored before half-time. Ladapo and Morris both scored again in the second half, as did Jake Hastie, as we ended up losing 6-1…

The opposition

Perennial yo-yo club Rotherham might well be continuing that pattern, sitting second in the league. A 21 match unbeaten run came to an end when they lost to Accrington on Boxing Day but they’re in a good place – only Sunderland have scored more goals, while they have the best defence in the division. Top scorer Michael Smith has 13 goals, midfielder Dan Barlaser has found the net five times, including a couple last month. Michael Ihiekwe is a stalwart at the back, while Chiedozie Ogbene has been capped for Ireland, and with his contract set to run out, might get a January move to the Championship.


I have a feeling this could be a painful afternoon. Evatt has been unusually, maybe not downbeat, but has stressed how he doesn’t feel the team are sufficiently up to speed after the virus outbreak. Put that up against a good side who did a job on us back in September, and how we never do well at Rotherham, and it could be a long day. 4-0 to them.

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