MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) tackles Sunday's televised League One encounter between Peterborough and Bolton from London Road.
Peterborough v Bolton | Sunday 12.15 | Sky Sports 1
Peterborough are on the cusp of the League One play-off places having overcome a stuttering run of results to record three wins from their last five league dates.
The victories have quietened a few dissenting voices from the terraces and combined with a couple of cup successes, make the Posh’s recent W5-D0-L2 form noteworthy. However, back-to-back triumphs against Chesham in the FA Cup and Barnet in the EFL Trophy this past week can be expunged.
The fact is, Grant McCann’s men are a puzzle that’s not easily solved. Inconstancy has dogged United over the past few campaigns and their W6-D5-L5 record in league action this season does little to dispel such a theory.
Centre-back Jack Baldwin, defensive midfielder Michael Bostwick and captain Chris Forrester will be back in the XI after a midweek off and whilst McCann insists Peterborough are in great shape heading into their toughest spell of the League One season, I’m not as easily sold.
Bar a comprehensive 3-0 romp over rivals Northampton at London Road in mid-October, league performances have been rather ordinary.
For example, the 2-1 triumph at Bristol Rovers last time out appears impressive but Posh were out-shot 24-10 in that encounter and faced nine on-target efforts when pocketing maximum points in stoppage-time.
Slow starting Posh
More often than not, United have started slowly and should McCann’s charges make a similarly limp opening, the hosts will be punished. Posh have shipped the first goal in 11 of their 16 League One games, leaking seven goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches already.
Peterborough have an average W12-D7-L12 London Road record since the start of last season – in 17 (55%) of those contests the home side fell behind to the opening goal and in eight of their past 10 when welcoming top-six clubs, they’ve also conceded first.
With Posh recording only six clean sheets in that 31-game sample, I’ve little faith in the home side shutting out a Bolton outfit spearheaded by Player of the Month Zach Clough. The Wanderers youngster has six goals in nine starts this season and presents a major threat in the final third – he's 9/5 (Ladbrokes) to score again.
Bolton's excellent efforts
Bolton’s seven-match winning run was ended by a 1-0 loss at Cheltenham in the midweek EFL Trophy but with little attention paid to that pathetic competition, it’s worth highlighting their excellent efforts over the past eight weeks.
The Trotters have claimed six of those seven wins alongside a clean sheet and the sample includes five successive triumphs in league action. And Phil Parkinson – winner of his second Manager of the Month award this season – has seen his side size the early initiative all too often.
Wanderers have broken the deadlock inside the first 20 minutes in each of their past five victories and notching a joint league-high seven goals in the opening 15 minutes of encounters across the campaign. When on the road, the Trotters have scored first on five occasions.
Trotters to take early initiative
So immediately I’m drawn to the 19/20 (Bwin) available for Bolton to score the opening goal on Sunday. But I’m also going to add Bolton/Bolton to the collection at 3/1 (BetVictor) in the Half-Time/Full-Time market.
The W-W double result has proven profitable in each of their last four outings and with highly-impressive centre-back pairing David Wheater and Mark Beevers keeping tabs on the league’s best defence, it should stand a decent chance of landing.
Parkinson’s men have already claimed five maximum pointers on the road and they’ve not conceded a league goal in over five hours on their travels. The visiting boss is expecting on-loan midfielder Tom Thorpe back in the squad this weekend and so there’s plenty in Bolton’s favour.
Finally, considering six of Bolton’s eight away days have featured fewer than three goals – as well as 12/16 overall – I can’t resist a wee nibble on the 13/5 (BetStars) available on Wanderers to win and Under 3.5 Goals. It will cover a 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 and 2-1 success.
Peterborough v Bolton – Bolton to score first (19/20 Bwin)
Peterborough v Bolton – Bolton to win and Under 3.5 Goals (13/5 BetStars)
Peterborough v Bolton – Bolton/Bolton half-time/full-time (3/1 BetVictor)