High hopes for the new year as Bolton Wanderers hope to make their point in 2014
A CREDITABLE draw against high-flying Nottingham Forest on Saturday maintained Wanderers’ unbeaten start to 2014 and it is the team’s best opening to a calendar year for eight seasons.
The record books show the Whites have a habit of starting the new year sluggishly, rarely making it through January without at least one defeat.
Dougie Freedman will hope that trend is avoided this month with trips to Reading and QPR either side of a home FA Cup fourth round clash against Cardiff City in the next few weeks.
Last season his team lost on New Year’s Day at Leeds United and went on to win just once in January – though that was the notable scalp of Sunderland in the FA Cup third round replay at the Stadium of Light.
The previous year, Wanderers went two matches before defeat but in 2011 they also lost away on January 1 – 2-1 at Liverpool.
In 2009, the Whites were without a win in their first four outings of the year and two years earlier they lost on New Year’s Day to Liverpool again.
But in 2006, Sam Allardyce’s Wanderers began the year in fine fashion with an unbeaten run of 10 matches that included three victories.
Two of those came back-to-back on home turf against Manchester City (2-0) and Arsenal (1-0), the latter an FA Cup fourth round success thanks to a goal from Stelios.
The Whites did not lose that year until February 23 when they went down 2-1 in the UEFA Cup at Marseille.
It was the second season in succession it had been a happy new year for Allardyce’s side.
In 2005, they also went 10 matches without defeat at the beginning of the year and this time won eight of those.
That included a run of seven victories on the bounce and the unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-1 loss at Newcastle, again in late February.
Allardyce also enjoyed a 10-game success at the start of 2001 – winning six and drawing four.
But prior to his spell in charge, new year had traditionally been a far-from fruitful spell.
In 1998, under Colin Todd in the Premiership, the Whites did not register a victory until a 3-2 win against Sheffield Wednesday on March 14 – goals from Per Frandsen, Nathan Blake and an Alan Thompson penalty ended a barren run of three draws and five defeats.
In contrast, at the start of the last century, Wanderers enjoyed a perfect first two months winning nine successive matches.
In 1906, they kicked off the new year with a thumping 6-1 victory over Woolwich Arsenal at Burnden Park and went on a run that also saw them put six goals past Sunderland in a 6-2 win in February.
The nine-match run came to an end with a 4-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest on March 24.
The current run has some way to go and some tough Championship hurdles to clear if Freedman’s class of 2014 are to get to an unbeaten run into double figures.
But the start they have is something to build on ahead of the weekend trip to Reading.