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They might be bottom but they’re looking up - should Sunderland fear Bolton tonight?

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Phil Parkinson takes his lowly Bolton to Wearside tonight in the hope of moving off the bottom of the table for the first time this season. The Trotters are unbeaten in three games and look a different animal now that they have some confidence.

Bristol City v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

The Story So Far...

Bolton began the Championship season in the worst possible fashion by not winning any of their first eleven league games. Phil Parkinson came under increasing pressure early doors but that was relieved when they finally achieved a win at home to Sheffield Wednesday a few games ago.

Parkinson has been working with one hand tied behind his back since gaining promotion, as Bolton have struggled with so many off the field problems that have limited player recruitment. So, the fact that Bolton are no longer cut adrift at the bottom of the division is quite astonishing.

Bolton currently sit two points behind Sunderland and five adrift of fourth bottom Birmingham City. They have won one, drawn four and lost nine so far, scoring eight and conceding 25.


The Last Time Out...

Tom Cairney broke Bolton hearts this past weekend as he netted a 94th minute equaliser to deny the visitors their first away victory this season.

Bolton had taken the lead in the first half through former Newcastle academy product Sammy Ameobi. Ameobi caught a long ball from former Sunderland goalkeeper Ben Alnwick, beating two defenders before firing the Trotters ahead.

Bolton statistically were outplayed on Saturday by Fulham, though that may have been because they were so conscious of protecting a vital lead that would have saw them move closer to the sides above them. Fulham enjoyed 73% of the ball, 19 shots and seven corners; they also had a goal disallowed controversially when Floyd Ayite was adjudged offside.

Bolton Wanderers v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship
Phil Parkinson is working with one hand tied behind his back at Bolton.
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Phil Parkinson was visibly upset that his team could not see out the win but he will take heart from the fact that his team led one of the divisions better teams for the majority of the game.

As a side note the result on Saturday means Bolton have not won in 32 Championship away games....


The Dangerman...

Bottom-placed Bolton do not have many players who jump out as dangermen, but Adam Armstrong - on loan from Newcastle - seems as likely a candidate as any to pile more misery on Sunderland than any other player.

Newcastle United v Burnley - Premier League
Adam Armstrong is struggling in his current loan spell at Bolton. But can the Newcastle player get on track tonight at the Stadium of Light?
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Armstrong has yet to score this season, but it would feel fitting if the Geordie were to put a final nail in the Grayson coffin this week.

Equally as plausible would be Sammy Ameobi adding to his increasing tally by scoring one in front of the Sunderland supporters at the Stadium of Light this evening.


The Treatment Room...

Bolton come into this game with just one new injury concern after Andrew Taylor went off injured against Fulham on Saturday. Former Reading midfielder Jem Karacan is a long-term absentee.


The Manager....

Former Bradford City manager Phil Parkinson has enjoyed a fairly decent managerial career so far, having proven himself in the lower levels of English football whilst also experiencing some minimal success in the Championship.

As a player, Parkinson played over 300 games for Reading before retiring in 2003 and taking the Colchester United job. Parkinson guided the U’s to promotion before leaving for Hull City at the end of the 2005-06 season. The move was not a wise one, as he left Hull in the December of 2006 with the side sat firmly in the relegation zone.

Chelsea v Bradford City - FA Cup Fourth Round
Phil Parkinson led Bradford City to a famous 4-2 victory at Stamford Bridge in 2015.
Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Parkinson then ended up at Charlton Athletic as Alan Pardew's assistant in early 2007, where the club suffered relegation to the Championship. Pardew left in November 2008 and Parkinson was handed the role of manager, where he took the club down to League One.

Despite relegation, Parkinson nearly got Charlton back up but lost a playoff semi final to Swindon, and he would eventually leave in 2011 after a spell of bad results.

Parkinson then took the Bradford City job where he caught the heart of the nation by guiding League Two Bradford all the way to Wembley for a League Cup final. His team lost 5-0 on the day to Swansea City, but the journey was magical and saw them defeat Arsenal and Aston Villa along the way. Parkinson was also manager of Bradford City when they defeated Jose Mourinho and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

In 2016 Parkinson took the job as Bolton manager having left Bradford in a healthy position near the top of the table, going on to guide Bolton to the Championship as League One runners up.


The Referee...

By my check of the record books this will be Tony Harrington’s first ever Sunderland game as a referee. The Cleveland-born whistler has taken charge of Bolton once this season - sending off Filipe Morais for two yellow cards as the Trotters lost away to Bristol City just last month.

Harrington has dished out 51 yellows and two red cards so far this season in his 13 games in charge.


The Statistics

Can you really statistically analyse two teams who are absolutely useless? Let's try anyway.

Bolton are a strong, physical team that are not afraid to get stuck into the opposition. That said, they are weak as a unit as they lack the necessary quality to do serious damage in this division.

Whoscored.com

The real area of concern for Bolton is their lack of goals and goalscorers. No one has scored more than two goals for Bolton this season.

It is clear that both Sunderland and Bolton are fundamentally bad football teams that do not do the simple stuff correctly. Both teams struggle with the ball, and both teams struggle when defending - and because both sides lack confidence and quality, they generally favour a long ball game. Lets be honest - the game tonight isn’t likely to be a thriller.