Bolton Wanderers taking shape under Dougie Freedman - but it's still about winning
ONE glance at the Championship table tells you Charlton Athletic’s need is greater – but there was no mistaking Dougie Freedman’s intentions as he laid down his demands for today’s clash at the Valley.
Wanderers may be safe and sound, unlike their South London hosts, but there must be no let up as they go in search of a fourth successive win.
This late-season run has given everyone around the Reebok a reason to wonder what might have been, but equally it could give reason for optimism as Freedman shapes a side aiming to hit the ground running next term.
Last weekend’s win over Barnsley saw a marked change in style with defenders such as Matt Mills and Tim Ream being given extra responsibility to play the ball out from the back.
But while the style change provided a talking point, the Scot bristled at suggestions he is “experimenting” now that the pressure is off.
Freedman insists that while the move towards an even more expansive brand of possession football is designed with next season in mind, it is still more than capable of producing three points at Charlton.
“Experiment is the wrong word – because I want to win the game,” he told The Bolton News. “I want to make this team progress.
“Yes, there is a progression, and for that to happen you need certain players who can carry the ball and show their character, particularly in front of a home crowd like last weekend.
“We have drawn so many of those games at home this season, it was a difficult one, and Barnsley have gone on and won at Charlton in midweek.
“Sometimes I just need to bring certain players into the team, whether that’s to play two up front with Jutkiewicz and Beckford, or Mason before he went back, it’s not me experimenting, it’s progressing the team to where I want it to be eventually.
“Believe me, I’d like to have done this whole progression thing a lot, lot quicker but when you inherit certain personnel and your hands are tied, you can’t shuffle the pack.
“I’ve got no emotion for Charlton at all. I understand their situation but all I’m looking at is to win a game.”
Charlton hover just one place and one point above the relegation zone, with a game in hand on Millwall, Barnsley and Yeovil.
They have won four games out of 11 since Belgian Jose Riga took over the reins from Chris Powell.
Freedman is desperate to maintain the good form into the summer and pointed out that despite last season’s near miss on the play-offs, it was the lack of killer instinct in the final few games that really cost his side in the end.
“I look back at last season and I don’t think our final four games were good enough. We won one of them,” he said.
“I want to win all four games. I want to play a team at Charlton that can get three points.”
Today’s game marks the first of three remaining home games for the Addicks – but the Valley, with its unpredictable playing surface, has seen only six victories this season.
For all their home discomforts, Wanderers have actually taken more points at the Reebok than on their travels this term, and Freedman heads back towards the capital confident he has a gameplan capable of producing the goods, but knows where the dangers lie in the Charlton ranks.
“I know what they are,” he added. “The new manager has got them playing with one, maybe two in front of their back four and playing the ball through midfield.
“They’ve got one or two players who can hurt you on their day but we just need to make sure it’s not their day.
“We need to approach this in the right fashion to win it. ”