At the start of the season expectations for both of these clubs were contrasting, with Barnsley tipped as big relegation candidates while Bolton were seen as a side who would almost certainly bounce straight back to the Premier League following their relegation last term. As it turns out, only half of this statement has turned out to be correct with both teams having poor campaigns – with Barnsley down in 21st spot while Bolton occupy a stable mid-table position.
While it has been said that Barnsley have tasted a poor season, some would argue that the Tykes are still punching above their weight. Many thought that they would be certainties for the drop and with the club currently one place above the drop zone, they are at least putting up a fight. Part of the reason for their position is recent form, with David Flitcroft’s men having one of the best recent records in the division. The club won eight out of nine games up until last weekend, where that run was abruptly ended following a 5-3 loss to relegation rivals Bristol City. Following on from that result, it now remains to be seen how Fliftcroft responds to his first major setback in professional management after being handed the job in January.
Bolton meanwhile are in also a good vein of form. It was only a few weeks ago that Dougie Freedman’s side were near the Tykes in the table, only for an unbeaten run of five games to propel them into 9th position. This puts them on forty five points and that should ensure that the club are well safe of relegation. However, while the Trotters may have put together some impressive form, they still haven’t won away for a long time with their last victory on the road being all the way back in November.
As for team news, Barnsley have been provided a boost for the game with Kelvin Etuhu set to return in some capacity following a nose injury. However, on a sour note, Scott Golbourne will not feature again this season due to a ligament problem. Bolton have also been hit with a similar long-term problem, after Mark Davies was hit with a cruciate ligament problem that will keep him out for ten months. Elsewhere, Dougie Freedman is sweating on the fitness of Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears who are both doubts.
This is a difficult game to predict and it will be interesting to see if Barnsley can respond from their setback at Ashton Gate last weekend. However, while their opponents are in a rich vein of form, it’s still clear they are frail on the road and our tip will therefore be a 2-2 score line.