It’s Bolton’s final game of the season tomorrow. Or we hope it is.
In many ways it’s the same scenario as last weekend. Win, and Ian Evatt will have led Wanderers back into League One after a one-season stay in the league’s bottom tier. Last week we blew that chance, but blow this one and it will be a case of having to go through the play-offs. And nobody’s stress levels can take that.
We go to Crawley knowing a win will take us up, regardless of what else happens. If we drop points, then that opens the door for Morecambe who would leapfrog us if they bettered our result. The Shrimps host Bradford. Also Cambridge aren’t guaranteed automatic promotion yet (they take on Grimsby), but their game is largely irrelevant to us. If we don’t win, the danger comes from Morecambe. If we do win, we’re up regardless.
Whatever happens, it’s another page written in the story of Wanderers on the final day. Will it be a Wrexham 1988, Peterborough 2017 or a Forest 2018 type day, or a Stoke 2012 or Blackpool 2013 type of day?
We’re without Kieran Lee for this one, and George Thomason is favourite to come into the side to replace him. A big miss, but Thomason is trusted, and has proven himself in big games. Otherwise, despite calls for Shaun Miller to start, expect a similar side and system to recent weeks. Crawley are too missing a big player, top scorer Tom Nichols is serving the final match of a suspension.
This is Bolton’s first league trip to Crawley, but we went there in 2012 in the League Cup, and in the later days of Owen Coyle’s tenure we lost 2-1. Benik Afobe put us ahead but goals from Billy Clarke and Nicky Ajose gave them the win.
Crawley only have the minor places to play for on the final day. They’re 12th at the moment and could move above Leyton Orient, while Port Vale and Bradford could go above them, so for them it’s about finishing in the top half. John Yems’ side come into this off a three match winless run but have a decent record against the division’s bigger sides, so they could be well up for this.
Said with absolutely no confidence, because I’ve been bricking it all week. But we can win this, and if I have to give you a scoreline, I’ll go for a 1-0 win. Elsewhere, I do expect Morecambe to win, so we need to do our job.