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Change for the better? Where will Parkinson look for inspiration against Barnsley?

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karlypants

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
The temptation for Phil Parkinson would be to pass off last weekend’s walloping at Wolves as an anomaly, the proverbial bad day at the office.

It is true that before their ill-feted visit to Molineux Wanderers had stabilised results and were starting to look more at home as a Championship outfit, even if they had not won over all of their doubters.

Parkinson had settled on a formation, and barring the rare change for injury or suspension, on a favoured set of personnel. It was safe, solid, and it served to get the Whites back into the survival mix.

Yet playing flat-out – as Wanderers have had to do for every moment of this run – was always going to take a physical toll with such minimal rotation of the squad. Some players looked sapped of energy in the second half against Reading, and no less so chasing shadows against the champions-elect.

As good as Wolves were on the day, there was something lacking in Bolton’s performance which would have made them vulnerable against any opposition in the Championship. It just so happened they were up against one of the more ruthless examples.

Now, faced with one of the division’s lesser lights, we will see if Parkinson sticks with the formula which had previously brought consistency or looks for inspiration from elsewhere.

Here, we look at what changes are available to the Wanderers boss, and how likely he is to make them.

GOALKEEPER

Ben Alnwick did not have his finest 90 minutes at Molineux and the competition between himself and Mark Howard has always been fierce. He can ill-afford another rush of blood like the one which led to Wolves second goal last weekend.

DEFENCE

Reece Burke is expected to replace the suspended David Wheater at centre-half but the other three components – Mark Little, Mark Beevers and Antony Robinson look safe enough.

MIDFIELD

Karl Henry and Darren Pratley have forged a useful partnership in recent weeks, adding a layer of insurance in front of the back four – but they looked off the pace at Molineux.

Against a technically-sound but lightweight Barnsley line-up it would be surprising if Parkinson moved away from the physically-imposing pair. Jem Karacan played 70 minutes for the development squad against Crewe on Monday night to keep himself sharp but Josh Cullen’s absence in the Under-23s could suggest he is being saved for Saturday.

In front of them, Josh Vela has been solid if not spectacular since his return from injury. Wide men Sammy Ameobi and Adam Armstrong were both subdued against Wolves – which opens up an opportunity for Will Buckley and Craig Noone.

Sharing just eight starts between them so far this season, the pair will feel they are due an opportunity.

Buckley has suffered fitness problems since signing in the summer but Noone has failed to stake a claim until recently, when he has impressed off the bench.

Both men are capable of playing either side of the attack, or as a number 10, which gives Parkinson plenty of flexibility if he looks to shake things up.

UP FRONT

Gary Madine has played more football than anyone else at Wanderers this season, totalling nearly 30 hours of playing time so far. Finding someone to shoulder the burden has been Parkinson’s chief dilemma of late, as summer addition Aaron Wilbraham continues to recover from a hip injury.

Madine tops the scoring chart with four goals and though many fans have called for Wanderers to shift to two up front, Parkinson has stuck with an extra midfielder as his side found a measure of consistency.

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