ON the face of it, bumper home crowds have not always spelled good news for Wanderers at this level of football, but has the club turned a corner?

For the last few years, the club has found it difficult to shake the stigma that poor results are somehow linked with bigger attendances, and so when ticket prices were reduced for Saturday’s game against Peterborough United, the announcement was greeted by the customary rolling of the eyes by many a Bolton supporter.

The season’s first Community Day sees prices cut to £10 for adults and £5 for concessions, a move designed to make the game more affordable for families and groups and potentially attract a new generation of younger Bolton supporter.

Reintroduced by Football Ventures on the club’s return to League One, which coincided with the return of fans to stadia after the pandemic, the events have helped boost crowd numbers to the highest average ever enjoyed at this level of football.

There is a commonly held belief, however, that performances have often suffered as a result of the busier turnstiles, and it is true to say that none of the six biggest attendances achieved by Wanderers as a third-tier club was rewarded with a win.

The Bolton News: A list showing Bolton Wanderers' biggest crowds in the third tierA list showing Bolton Wanderers' biggest crowds in the third tier (Image: NQNW)

But is it a fair criticism? Well, perhaps not.

At the very top of the list (league crowds only) is a 1-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers in 1973, coming towards the end of a season that would end in Jimmy Armfield’s side lifting the Third Division trophy. It was their first home loss in a year but was watched by more than 33,000 at Burnden Park.

Beyond that there were some nondescript draws for Ian Evatt’s side against Derby County on Boxing Day 2022 and Cambridge United in April – which also happened to be a Community Day fixture. The play-off semi-final against Barnsley also proved a tight and tense affair, watched by more than 23,000.

Phil Parkinson’s side fought out an unsatisfying goalless draw against Chesterfield in April 2017 in front of the biggest gate of the Ken Anderson era.

The most notable, or infamous, non-performances were the pair of 4-0 defeats against Wigan Athletic, results which may have gone a long way to establishing the belief that Bolton do not fare well in front of a big crowd.

The Latics went on to get promotion in 2021/22, and other losses on that list against Ipswich, Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday were also inflicted by clubs who went on to claim a spot in the Championship.

Of course, more than 74,000 turned out at Wembley back in April to see Wanderers hammer Plymouth Argyle in the Papa Johns Trophy Final, and there may also have been a positive sign in the last league game against Derby.

A crowd of 22,754 watched Dion Charles and Josh Dacres-Cogley score in a 2-1 win against the Rams, which represented the seventh-biggest attendance ever to see Bolton in this division. Furthermore, it was also the biggest gate ever to see a Bolton side claim three points at this level.