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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers News » Keith Hill: I couldn't make sweeping changes at Bolton if I wanted to...

Keith Hill: I couldn't make sweeping changes at Bolton if I wanted to...

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
The possibility of squad rotation in the Trophy was posed to Keith Hill post-match on Saturday, prompting the flicker of a smirk on his face.

Though competition rules mean he is duty-bound to select six of the starting line-up that faced AFC Wimbledon again tonight, it is a safe assumption he would prioritise, if a lengthy injury list would allow.

The Bolton boss is caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, knowing that his team desperately need to rediscover some consistency – and exorcise the ghost of that 7-1 mauling just over a fortnight ago, but that his paper-thin squad cannot afford any more absentees.

“We have got to go with what we have got at Accrington, come out of the other side and select a team for Peterborough,” he said.

“If I had a different scenario, facing a top-six finish, I’d totally change it as much as I possibly could. But we are not, we have to work on a little bit of continuity.

“We have got to turn around a 10-year bottom of the league away form. That’s my job. I have got to come up with a permutation to come up with a result against Accrington and Peterborough – probably more so in the league.

“This hasn’t come up since I have been here. We are talking 10 years in the league.”

During 2019 alone, Wanderers have won three, drawn two and lost 17 of their games away from home in all competitions. And of those 11 points gained, Hill is responsible for five of them.

They have also conceded an incredible 61 goals on their travels in the current calendar year – comfortably the most of any club in the Football League.

The loss of Liam Bridcutt and Luke Murphy to injury meant Hill had to draft two youngsters, Ronan Darcy and Sonny Graham, into his midfield on Saturday. Both acquitted themselves well but the Bolton boss admits it is becoming tough to handle the regular absences in his squad.

“It’s going to be like this for the rest of the season,” he said. “There are still a lot of things up for discussion, the outcome of the EFL discipline situation, and so we’re looking at a run of games now going into the new year that will decide what we do for the New Year and the rest of the season.

“But that’s the hand we’ve been dealt, and I am happy with it. There’s still a massive excitement around what we’re doing but you reference certain games and I look at the Blackpool game as being the performance we’d built towards. Within the space of a couple of games we’d lost Liam Bridcutt, Jack Hobbs and Ali Crawford – big components of the structure we’re trying to build.

“I know you’ll never have the complete jigsaw, even if you had the riches of a Sunderland in this division. You are always reconfiguring for one reason or another.

“But it’s definitely difficult to keep changing so many times. The two young lads – Sonny Graham and Ronan Darcy – came in on Saturday to a very tough environment.

“Two thirds of that team had played in the previous game and been heavily beaten. Psychologically they dealt with it well and the players grew into the game. I was pleased with that.”

Despite the problems with injuries, Hill is pleased with how his players are implementing a new style of play.

From being miles behind their League One counterparts in possession, shots on goal and shots on target, Wanderers are now catching up and, in some cases, overtaking their rivals.

Hill fully backs an approach which does bring more risks in possession, as witnessed by the stray pass from Sonny Graham in the first half against Wimbledon on Saturday which led to Marcus Forss’ opening goal.

“The frustration on Saturday from my point of view is that we have scored two goals at home, and I think that means you should be winning a football match,” he said.

“But I will support, 100 per cent, Sonny and the mistake he made for the first goal.

“There seemed to be a sigh as in ‘the game is over because we’re 1-0 down’.

“I think we’re getting a lot of respect in football now, especially in our division among the teams who are in and around us. Teams are sitting deep, letting us have the ball.

“It will be frustrating. We can’t give the opposition a fillip. It’s the old ‘sit and nick’ and it very nearly worked. Opponents think if they try and take us on then we are a different proposition.

“We responded well each time we went behind. There was a lot of courage there from the players. They are trying to do the right thing and it doesn’t always work, they’ll make mistakes but you don’t want to be constantly reminded of it if you do.”


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