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Why Bolton Wanderers can't be Saddled with an FA Cup shock

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Even the most ardent FA Cup romantic will struggle to get enthusiastic about Wanderers’ return to action, four days on from the catastrophe at the KCOM.

The club have pitched their tickets well – priced at £15 for adults and £5 for concessions – and even offered young supporters wearing a full kit the chance to lead the team out on to the field of play.

But no amount of PR can gloss over the team’s dismal display at Hull City on New Year’s Day, so this third round tie becomes somewhat of a necessary evil for Phil Parkinson and his team.

Beat League One opponents, even by a distance, and Parkinson and his team will get little leeway. Defeat or a replay would just magnify the feelings of dissatisfaction felt by those who will still dutifully step through the turnstiles at 3pm tomorrow.

Around 1,000 travelling Saddlers fans will arrive in the North West sensing an upset could be on the cards, and that Dean Keates’ mid-table outfit could take advantage of Wanderers’ apparent vulnerability.

Parkinson has promised changes, if only to ensure no Hull hangover. But he also knows full-well he cannot gamble too heavily on crashing out of a competition which could still be lucrative.

The Bolton boss found himself on the wrong end of a Walsall surprise once before, as a certain Erhun Oztumer inspired a 10-man side to victory in League One. The same player then scored a sensational goal at the (then) Macron Stadium, only for Wanderers to exert their quality and run out 4-1 victors.

Oztumer found himself in the centre of Tuesday’s disaster when he came on at half time with the Whites a goal down, in Parkinson’s own words “trying to open up the game.”

Such is the mood anticipated tomorrow, the Wanderers boss will not be able to wait until half time to get his team on the front foot. It will be interesting to see, however, if he turns to the former Walsall playmaker after what was a wretched afternoon on Humberside.

Oztumer had seemingly been prepped for an FA Cup bow against his old club, an occasion Parkinson was hoping could be a tension-free affair with his team out of the Championship relegation zone. Instead, the result at Hull has made it more a giant banana skin in waiting.

There have been little flashes of the midfielder’s skill since he arrived on a free transfer last summer but he has yet to completely convince the Bolton faithful that of his quality at this level. In his defence, opportunities have been scarce, and his Carabao Cup outing against Leeds United showed he was capable of mixing it with the best of them.

Counting against him, there currently seems little scope in Parkinson’s regular packed midfield for a player of his skillset and stature, especially in the midst of a high-pressured relegation scrap.

Wanderers are not the only team looking for a fillip, however, and Walsall will arrive with just two victories in their last 13 games.

Midfielder Liam Kinsella feels performances have warranted more points in the league, and is hoping for a change in fortune when Walsall visit the University of Bolton Stadium.

“We should have had three points against both Luton and Peterborough. It’s frustrating when you’re putting in a good shift and performance but you’re coming away with nothing, it hurts.

“It was a good second half but we are just frustrated.

“Going in at half-time two goals down we have to try and then get something out of the game and it’s tough. It was a good performance in the second half and we should have got something.

“We are putting in some good performances but we are just coming away with nothing.

“We need to turn the good performances into good results and we can start going up the table again rather than looking down.”

Walsall have been boosted with the signing of ex-England and West Ham winger Matt Jarvis on loan from Norwich City, with the 32-year-old expected to make his debut this weekend.

Capped just the once by his country, the one-time £10.5million midfielder was cajoled into dropping down to League One by his former Canaries team-mate Russell Martin, who is currently serving as player-coach.


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