Championship Analysis – Bolton bottom after defeat to Bournemouth

Bolton Wanderers ended a dismal week bottom of the Championship after Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to a Bournemouth side that played more than 45 minutes a man down. A 4-0 defeat to fellow strugglers Fulham in midweek led to the departure of Dougie Freedman on Friday, and Blackpool’s first win of the season over Cardiff the same evening dumped the Trotters to the foot of the table and five points adrift of safety.

At the time of writing Bolton have yet to make a permanent appointment, with player-coach Andy Hughes and goalkeeping coach Lee Turner having taken charge of Saturday’s game.

“I am sure there will be some high-class managers, out of work, looking at this job and chomping at the bit. If I was one of them with this facility, the training ground, the academy and the fans, I would be,” Hughes said afterwards. The likes of Malky McKay and Tony Pulis have been linked, somewhat lazily so as they are merely available, and in fact speculation is that the club, as several have done recently, will appoint from within, with youth team coach Jimmy Phillips believed to be the favourite.

Freedman was always going to be under pressure this season, having guided the club to a disappointing 14th place last season; one which involved having to play catch-up from an almost identical scenario to now. The season previous to that he had taken the club to within goal difference of the play-offs.

Before he left, Freedman admitted the job had been harder than he’d expected and it’s difficult to know whether to sympathise or not; the Scotsman left Crystal Palace, a team 15 places higher than Bolton in the Championship title at that point in 2012, as he believed Bolton had better Premier League credentials. Having had a recent stint in the top division, Bolton were indeed an enticing prospect, but with Palace now enjoying a second season at Premier League level, it’s another case of ‘bigger’ not necessarily meaning better – which is of course one of the beauties of football.

Blackpool’s first win was somewhat overshadowed by a pre-organised fans walkout by parts of the crowd – some onto the pitch – in the 53rd minute in reference to the 1953 FA Cup win over Bolton as part of a continuing protest at the club’s owners. It was a move that divided the fanbase as a whole, however, with some suggesting it would further distract the players and possibly lead to action by the league. Those who walked out missed the winner by Francois Zoko.

At the top end it was an intriguing weekend as every club in the top seven prior to the fixtures were held to draws. For Nottingham Forest it was their fourth on the trot and only a last-gasp equaliser from Michail Antonio prevented their first loss of the season against Ipswich, who as a result were forced to settle for crawling to sixth. Middlesbrough, eighth going into the weekend, were the big winners, ending in fifth after beating Fulham 2-0, and it was good news for the chasing pack as a whole: now only two points separate the top eight.

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