Who are Bolton Wanderers' best centre-half pairing?
A FORTNIGHT can seem a long time in football but never more so than on the back of a heavy defeat against a local rival.
Left to stew over the Blackburn Rovers debacle over the international break, Wanderers fans will be expecting a prompt return to form when Dougie Freedman’s side get back in action this weekend against Leeds United.
And they may reasonably expect changes to a side currently rooted to the bottom of the Championship table for the first time in 20 years, and enduring their worst start since way back in 1984.
No position has come under more scrutiny with the supporters than in the centre of defence, where captain Zat Knight and David Wheater have so far struggled to forge an effective partnership.
It was hoped Wheater’s return from long-term injury at the start of the season would off-set the loss of Craig Dawson, whose presence on loan from West Brom last year coincided with the club’s late surge up the table to the fringe of the play-offs.
Things have not worked out up to now for the former Middlesbrough man, though, and despite only recently signing a three-year deal, such has been his struggle over the last few weeks that links with a return to Teesside on loan last week were taken seriously.
Knight, too, has failed to show the commanding form he had demonstrated alongside Dawson last term – a partnership that yielded 10 wins and three draws from 16 games together.
Dropping the skipper altogether from the side to face Leeds would be a bold move from Freedman – who has relied heavily upon the 32-year-old as his lieutenant on the field since his arrival last October.
But should the manager decide to make wholesale changes, then the two most likely to profit would be Tim Ream and Matt Mills, who have both been waiting patiently in the wings for their opportunity.
The pair are actually undefeated in three games as a pairing – possibly food for thought – but Mills (with Knight) and Ream (with Wheater) both have strong records in the past.
The wildcard could prove to be Alex Baptiste who has so far been operating as a right back but who played most of his football in the middle of defence for Blackpool over the last few years.
Were Baptiste to be moved into the middle, then Tyrone Mears would be the only senior choice at right-back.