HAVING vanquished the ghosts of Portman Road on Saturday, Wanderers can bank on better omens this weekend for the visit of Rotherham United.

Recent history has been split down the middle against the Millers, with four consecutive wins on home turf in a run that stretches back to the early nineties.

Away from home is a different matter, of course, and though Ian Evatt was unconcerned about the horror stories of Barry Knight and play-off semi-finals in the build up to the Ipswich game, he may be interested to know that only one opponent – Liverpool – has a longer unbeaten run at home against Bolton.

Ending the Rotherham sequence, which started at the height of Beatlemania, is perhaps a story best left for another day.

Evatt’s primary concern on Saturday will be to better a side which has bounced between League One and the Championship in recent years, and who have been strongly tipped to be among the promotion contenders once again.

Before their midweek game against Lincoln City, the South Yorkshiremen had rained in more shots and produced more accurate crosses than any other side in the division.

That hadn’t necessarily translated to consistency, although in big striker Michael Smith the Millers possess a player who seems to thrive on their busy and relentless attacking style.

The difference in approach between the two sides is best illustrated in the passing statistics.

Wanderers have averaged a total 447.1 passes per game in their first seven outings. The split between where they are successfully keeping possession is relatively even – 193.5 passes per game on average in their own half, and 168.7 in the opposition half.

Rotherham, meanwhile, averaged a shade over 275 passes in their first six games. The difference in their possession is quite pronounced, with Paul Warne’s side averaging just 57 passes in their own half, compared with 127.5 in the opponents’ half of the pitch.

The ethos, based on those numbers, is to get the ball forward quickly and play from there – and it is a philosophy which has worked well for the Millers, who have gained promotion in their last two stints in this division.

Their average team possession average of 45.4 per cent suggests they are much less direct and hold on to the ball better than a Gillingham, Cambridge United or Wycombe Wanderers, but with Smith’s physicality and the pace of Freddie Ladapo around, it makes sense to play to your strengths and Wanderers will need to defend better from the wider areas than they did at Ipswich.

Bolton’s last meeting with Rotherham was in the sunshine at the New York Stadium in September 2019, just days after the club had been saved from the brink of liquidation.

Keith Hill’s eclectic mix went 1-0 up but were soundly beaten 6-1 and it is a measure of how things have changed that just two years later, only substitute Adam Senior would be available to play in Saturday’s game from the squad picked that afternoon.

The last meeting in Bolton was on Boxing Day 2018, as Phil Parkinson’s side ended a 13-game winless streak thanks to Gary O’Neil’s second-half winner.

Not a single player remains in the squad from a day where Wanderers climbed off the foot of the Championship table, above Ipswich and Reading.

The Bolton News:


LIVERPOOL – 18 (games) Wanderers’ last league win at Anfield was in January 1954. Dennis Stevens and Willie Moir were on target for Bill Ridding’s side, who finished fifth in Division One that season, beating the Reds on three occasions, including the FA Cup.

ARSENAL – 17 You have to go back to January 1962 for Wanderers’ last league win at Gunners’ HQ. Dougie Holden and Dennis Stevens scored in a 2-1 victory at Highbury in the first season without the great Nat Lofthouse.

FULHAM – 17 Craven Cottage has not been a happy hunting ground for Bolton in the last couple of decades. Their last league win was in November 1992, just as Bruce Rioch’s promotion-bound side were starting to find their feet in the old Division Two. Andy Walker scored twice, with David Lee and Alan Stubbs getting the others.

ROTHERHAM – 17 The last time a Bolton team beat the Millers on their own turf in the league was August 1966 – a month after England had lifted the World Cup. Gordon Taylor scored the only goal at Millmoor.

DERBY COUNTY – 15 The Baseball Ground and Pride Park have been equally difficult away days for Bolton in league football and you have to go all the way back to September 1981 for their last league win. Chris Thompson and Gerry McElhinney scored the goals on that day.