Slowly improving Bolton are on the way up following a dreadful start to the season and have now given themselves a chance of avoiding an immediate return to League One, as they arrive at Griffin Park for the club’s “Back to the 80s”-themed game.
Wanderers, promoted in May after a single season back in the third tier, were seven points adrift of safety at the end of September with only two points from 11 games.
They had just lost eight matches in a row, including Brentford’s 3-0 win at the Macron Stadium, and had failed to score in the last seven.
However, after the October international break things changed.
A 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday got them up and running and sparked an unbeaten run of seven matches which included one more win, 2-1 over Norwich, and five draws.
That sequence ended in a 5-1 thumping at Wolves, but they won four and lost three of the following three fixtures – with a nine-point Christmas period moving them out of the relegation zone.
Their victories have come over Barnsley (3-1), Cardiff (2-0) and Hull (1-0) while they picked up their first away win of the season at Sheffield United (1-0) in their final match of 2017.
Wanderers’ relegation two seasons ago ended a four-year spell in the Championship. They crashed out meekly – only winning five matches and collecting 30 points as they finished in bottom place, 19 points adrift of safety.
Before that they had an 11-year spell in the Premier League – which included a sequence in which they finished eighth, sixth, eighth and seventh in consecutive seasons in the middle of the last decade.
In that time, they also qualified for the Uefa Cup twice – reaching the round of 32 and then the round of 16 – and also won the Carling Cup in 2004.
WHO’S IN CHARGE
Phil Parkinson took over as Bolton manager in the summer of 2016 to replace Neil Lennon, who had left towards the end of the previous season.
Parkinson left Bradford City after five years in charge – having led them to promotion via the League Two play-offs and the Capital One Cup final in 2013, as well as a famous fourth round FA Cup victory at Chelsea two years later.
He started his managerial career with Colchester, pipping us to automatic promotion from League One in 2006, and has also managed Hull and Charlton.
As a player, he made more than 500 senior appearances for Bury and Reading, where he had an 11-year spell.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, he told the Bolton News: “We know the danger Brentford possess. The club has been built up steadily over the years and they’ve worked on that foreign market and done well, made some very good acquisitions.
“When we played them earlier in the season we had a great 20 minutes and should have taken the lead but in the end they scored three fantastic goals – a free kick, and two when we opened up trying to get back into the game.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for Brentford and I think we’ve got to go there with the same attitude we had at Sheffield United. We have got to fight hard.”
Looking back at our win at Bolton in September, Parkinson added: “In the second half we left ourselves exposed and got punished because they are a good side. We’ll learn a lesson from that but sometimes when you chase the game it’s the gamble you take.”
Brentford took four points off Bolton two seasons ago, starting with a 1-1 televised Monday night draw in Lancashire.
The match was significant for being Lee Carsley’s final game in charge of the Bees with Dean Smith, who had been appointed earlier in the day, watching on from the stands.
He saw John Swift put us ahead with a curling shot early on and then Neil Danns equalise midway through the second half.
By the time of the return game, on a Tuesday night in April, Bolton were on the verge of relegation and our 3-1 win made that all but certain.
The game was effectively over after 36 minutes as we raced into a 3-0 lead thanks to an early goal from Nico Yennaris and a quick double from Lasse Vibe. Zach Clough scored a consolation penalty in the second half.
The Bees finally picked up our first win of this season with a 3-0 victory at the Macron Stadium in September, thanks to three superb goals.
Yoann Barbet’s brilliant free-kick gave us a first half lead and long-range strikes from Nico Yennaris and Ollie Watkins completed the victory.
Q – How would you assess Bolton’s season so far?
A – I’d suggest that Bolton’s season so far has been a struggle, but thanks to the battling qualities they’ve shown of late, it’s a battle they are quite capable of winning.
A two-point return from the opening 11 games left them playing catch up, and they weren’t helped by the unavailability of some key players at the start of the campaign .
Q – What were the pre-season expectations – promotion or play-off push, mid-table or relegation battle and why?
A – Maybe some supporters may have expected a better return, but realistically they are in a mini-league of their own, and they need to finish on top of a four-team league, and if they manage to achieve that goal then for me it would represent a successful season, by retaining their Championship status.
Q – Why have Bolton found it hard going so far this season and what has been behind their recent improvement in form?
A – The recent improvement in Wanderers results is down in no small way to a steely spirit and camaraderie amongst the players which has produced a real desire and determination to remain in this Division.
Q – What activity do you expect in the transfer window – in and out?
A – In terms of the transfer window that could have a big bearing on what happens next. The manager has already gone on record declaring: “it’s important to retain players”. As for the possibility of improving and strengthening the squad, that too, could be crucial, and may prove difficult, but it’s certainly something which all the backroom staff will be working on.
Q – Which Bolton players should we watch out for?
A – Bolton’s leading scorer Gary Madine has been in a rich vein of form recently, and is currently enjoying his best-ever Championship season. In fact, Wanderers rejected a bid for him from Cardiff this week.
Q – What sort of role does former Bees midfielder Darren Pratley play – is he one of the key men in the side?
A – Darren Pratley will be a big miss for Wanderers though, having picked up an ankle injury recently.
PUBS IN BRENTFORD
For Bolton fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).
We are now back to the traditional four pubs around the ground, following the reopening of the Royal Oak.
The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.
Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.
The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.
There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.
There is a pub right by Brentford station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.
For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.
The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge with a beer deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel.
A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.
Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.
Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.
This is relatively straight forward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube due to waiting times (overground trains come every 15 mins and the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 mins on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from Kings Cross/Euston/Paddington).
Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to Northfields station from Kings Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).
You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.
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