FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his views on Monday night’s derby date between Bury and Bolton in League One.
Bury v Bolton | Monday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
Bury haven’t lost a home league game against Lancashire rivals Bolton for 87 years (W7-D7-L0) but the pair meet for the first time in 17 years at Gigg Lane on Monday night.
Just six miles separate the two towns down the A58 but the clubs have enjoyed vastly different trajectories since last locking horns here in 1999. With a sold out crowd and the duo residing in the top-half of League One, there’s plenty at stake.
For Bury, a wonderful start (W6-D2-L2) that included a five-match winning streak for David Flitcroft’s charges has dissipated due to a series of injuries and suspensions. The Shakers have since lost four on the spin but haven’t been beaten in five consecutive league outings since 2011.
The hosts will still be without Kean Bryan, Nathan Cameron and Craig Jones with Tom Walker also unavailable to due the terms of his loan. Both Tom Pope and Leon Barnett are hoping to return to the team sooner than later.
Off the field it’s been another calamitous week for Bury’s directors after the club were served with a fourth winding-up petition of the year but Flitcroft has been at pains to stress the playing squad are fully focussed on Monday’s encounter.
Bury haven’t kept a clean sheet since August and have leaked goals in each of their last 13 fixtures. It’s a run that includes six Both Teams To Score winners from six at Gigg Lane, a venue in which the Shakers have fired a solitary blank in their last eight outings.
Flitcroft’s men tend to be involved in high-scoring duels when posed with top-six opposition. Indeed, six of their last eight when welcoming top-six sides to Gigg Lane have breached the Over 2.5 Goals barrier with four such fixtures rewarding Over 3.5 Goals backers.
However, the derby nature of this encounter should ensure a much tighter contest, particularly with defensive specialist Phil Parkinson operating in the opposition dugout.
Since Parkinson won promotion to the third-tier with Bradford, the 48 year-old has overseen just 57/152 (37%) of successful Over 2.5 Goals selections, including only 3/14 (21%) following his arrival at Bolton over the summer.
Wanderers haven’t’ leaked more than once in any of their last eight away league fixtures – their best run since 2001 – and should the Whites extend their current streak of four games without a goal against (W4-D0-L0), they’ll match Sam Allardyce’s class of 2005.
During Bolton’s past 10 matches, the visitors have faced just an average of 8.50 shots per-game with only 2.80 managing to hit the target. No League One side has shipped fewer goals than Bolton (10) with immense central-defence pairing Mark Beevers and David Wheater earning rave reviews.
However, the Whites aren’t prolific going forward and although they do boast moments of magic with Sammy Ameobi and Zach Clough in the side, offensive entertainment can often be few and far between. With on-loan midfielder Tom Thorpe injured and Parkinson short on options in midfield, inspiration may be thin on the ground at Gigg Lane.
Bolton are understandable favourites to clinch maximum points here but at the prices offered, I’m happy to look elsewhere for a punt. Wanderers’ back four should prove strong enough to earn a point but I’m unwilling to trust the Trotters to make hay going forward.
The draw is the outsider of the three pre-match prices but knowing Parkinson’s penchant for tight tussles, I’ll chuck in Under 2.5 Goals to the equation for a 10/3 shot (BetStars) to support. This selection will pay-out should the game end 0-0 or 1-1.
Bury v Bolton – Draw and Under 2.5 Goals (10/3 BetStars)