SOMETIMES when I’m stuck on a crossword, the best thing to do is put down the newspaper and step away.

Phil Parkinson has a puzzle to solve this month as he tries to keep Wanderers in touch with the survival fight.

The business he does in January will make or break the Whites’ chances of staying in the Championship. Staying within reach of 21st spot is imperative, not only to attract the best possible players but also to convince Ken Anderson his cash is not being poured down the proverbial drain.

Last weekend’s heavy defeat against Wolves cannot be allowed to fester. To use a crossword pun, they can’t be too down.

We should see what psychological damage it has done when Wanderers take on Barnsley this afternoon at the Macron but such is the prickly mood among supporters at the moment, defeat hardly bears thinking about.

It may be Parkinson has a different vantage point for the next game at Nottingham Forest, with an FA ban now hanging over his head for a second red card of the season at Wolves.

In my own opinion it was a daft decision to send the Bolton boss and Wolves’ Nuno Espirito Santo to the stands. I understand the need for managers to stay in their technical area, particularly when a flashpoint occurs on the pitch as it did when David Wheater steamrollered Jota, but it was hardly a fist-fight between the two benches.

Parkinson says he was outside the confines for 15 seconds in total. Compare and contrast with Pep Guardiola celebrating Manchester City’s winner against Southampton, or even David Unsworth’s chest-beating demonstration of passion as Everton trounced West Ham in midweek. Can you seriously pick and choose when a person is allowed beyond the line?

I don’t know the full extent of the words exchanged between the two managers, suffice it to say they were not planning dinner reservations, but ref Keith Stroud confirmed to Wanderers staff after the game that no bad language was used. So why make such a deal?

I think the answer lies in a young fourth official, who is only fresh on to the Football League scene. Somewhere up in the stands an assessor is watching his every move and after such a flashpoint, there is probably some prescriptive directive in the rulebook which instructs him to take action, or get marked down.

I had the great pleasure of writing with Mark Halsey in this very newspaper not so long ago, and I know from speaking to him on a regular basis just how much pressure is placed on the men in the middle to get a good mark from some stuffy box-ticker watching from above.

Parkinson plans to put his case forward but we know from past experience these things seldom get reversed by the independent disciplinary committee. Heck, it’s headline news when they actually do.

The Whites boss was already treading a tightrope after his Sheffield Wednesday dismissal. But I remember thinking at the time, hunched over a laptop in a freezing cold Molineux press box, ‘at least someone is showing a bit of fight down there.’

Will the manager’s potential absence on the touchline matter at all? Well, not according to the Bolton fans I asked on Twitter. Around 55 per cent of them said it would not make a difference if Parkinson was patrolling the touchline or sat in the stands relaying instruction. Some 32 per cent said players would notice the difference, while and optimistic 13 per cent say there won’t be a ban. I hope they are right.

More than likely the Wanderers boss will face a game or two where he is unable to stand in the technical area, and forced to take an Allardyce-esque view. Who knows? It may give him a different perspective on how his team is playing?

Some fans would argue a different approach is needed if Bolton are to avoid the drop this season. Then again, some fans just like to argue.