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Bolton Nuts » BWFC » Bolton Wanderers Banter » COMMENT: Like it or lump it, Wanderers have to put hard miles in for success

COMMENT: Like it or lump it, Wanderers have to put hard miles in for success

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Wanderers will have to do it the hard way this week, whether Ian Evatt likes it or not.

Two games and roughly 700 miles of travel await the Whites over four days, in what must rank as one of the most gruelling fixture spells in living memory.

Being instructed by the EFL to play at Mansfield Town on Wednesday night does not sit well with Evatt, who has beef with the Stags having twice taken his team to Field Mill in the last few weeks, only to be told the game is called off.

After the last occasion he vowed that the next visit would be on Bolton’s terms – but the subsequent postponement at Salford and the continued havoc wreaked on the League Two calendar has left the authorities with little choice but the sandwich the match into midweek before an arduous journey to Southend United.

Evatt may argue there are four remaining Tuesdays left for rearranged games (March 11 and 16, April 27 and May 4). And had Bolton’s weekend game been at home, it is unlikely there would be anything like as much fuss.

The core of the issue, assuming Mansfield’s notoriously temperamental playing surface is deemed fit for purpose on Wednesday night, is that from the moment the final whistle sounds, Evatt will have just 68 hours to prepare his side for the starting whistle at Roots Hall.

A good portion of that time will be spent travelling, both back from Nottinghamshire and to Essex, which according to Google Maps takes just over six hours on a good day.

The kick-off time has been amended to 5pm to enable Bolton to travel back on the night, also underlining the flagrant disregard the fixture planners now have for the fans who are already having to watch via a laptop.

Many supporters have already shelled out to watch the Mansfield game at a reasonable 7pm start time – but could now be left out of pocket with the new kick-off nudging over into the normal working day.

As ex-England boss Roy Hodgson remarked at the weekend, football has done well to survive in the pandemic, but the true danger lies in what happens next, and whether the game starts to favour streaming over those paying through the turnstiles.

In their last two journeys to Mansfield Wanderers have trained on the Monday morning, travelled to their hotel, then stayed on the Tuesday night to ensure the players get adequate rest. They returned to the training ground on Thursday and Friday before home games on the weekend.

This time, the late return from Mansfield means Thursday becomes a recovery day with little or no physical training. Some sort of session will most likely be held on Friday morning before the players board the team coach travelling to Southend – although it has also been common in the past for the squad to train en route to a long away trip, breaking up the journey time.

Evatt knows that time is no longer on Bolton’s side if they are to challenge for the play-offs so to see a request to play the Mansfield game pushed further down the line and enable him to spend more time preparing for Southend was especially galling.

At least now the Wanderers boss has enough personnel at his disposal to make changes and ensure the team which (theoretically) takes to the pitch at Mansfield and Southend should be fresher than it would have been a couple of months ago.

Evatt remains confident that additions like Marcus Maddison, Dapo Afolayan and Declan John will enable to him to take a different approach at home, where the Whites can play more expansively, compared to on the road, where the standard of pitch can be variable, to say the least.

Now Wanderers must find some answers in the Mansfield mud. Their poor start has heaped pressure on this run of games and meant Evatt cannot plan as meticulously as he would like but he is not alone, and there is always someone worse off. Carlisle have played three fewer games than Bolton and have as many as five in hand on Cambridge in the promotion picture.

If the Bolton camp feels wronged, better use it to their advantage in two games that really will show whether they are made of the right stuff.

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Andy Walker
Andy Walker
I don’t normally buy into the Iles bashing, he’s a local news journalist so my expectations of him are relative to that.

However, this is a really drab/pointless article to have produced. The issue with playing two games in close succession is with physical conditioning, not some sort of mental fortitude as he suggests here.

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