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Top ten: How Bolton Wanderers can reach the magical 50-point mark

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
The countdown is on, Wanderers have 10 games to preserve their Championship status.

At the start of October Phil Parkinson’s side were rock bottom with two points from their first 11 games. No second-tier side in history had avoided relegation from that position.

One online bookmaker offered odds of 1,500/1 ON that Bolton would make an immediate return to League One – and even the most optimistic supporter struggled to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Bit by bit the Whites clawed back the deficit and gave themselves a fighting chance. Now, they enter the final stretch of the season in a promising position which could be strengthened further with a win at Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow afternoon.

There are some big tests ahead: Champions-elect Wolves and promotion-chasing Aston Villa at home, six-pointers at Burton Albion and Barnsley away.

Here, chief football writer Marc Iles plots his path to Championship safety and the 50-point mark normally associated with staying up.

Sheffield Wednesday (A)

Reasons to cheer – Wednesday have lost their last five games and, according to their manager Jos Luhukay, they are suffering for confidence. Wanderers took a good point in similar circumstances at Reading on Tuesday night, and a similar result would be welcomed.

Reasons to fear – Jordan Rhodes has an enviable scoring record against the Whites, bagging eight goals in 11 meetings.

Marc’s prediction – A solid point, similar to that at Reading. 1-1.

Aston Villa (H)

Reasons to cheer – Wanderers’ home form has been solid since October. Only Burton and Preston have managed to take three points, and Parkinson’s side has produced some big performances against the likes of Fulham and Cardiff City.

Reasons to fear – Villa are chasing hard for automatic promotion, losing just twice since the start of the year, and have a deep squad, improved recently with the acquisition of Lewis Grabban.

Marc’s prediction – Villa might have a bit too much. Going for 1-2.

Leeds United (A)

Reasons to cheer – Leeds have lost their mojo of late, and hopefully will have dropped right off the play-off radar by the time Wanderers arrive on Good Friday.

Reasons to fear – Away form has picked up with recent draws at Norwich and Reading but Elland Road is a test for any team’s nerve. Approach with caution.

Marc’s prediction – All hands to the pump, grind out a 0-0 draw.

Birmingham City (H)

Reasons to cheer – At time of writing, the Blues are on a six-match losing streak with rumours of dressing room unrest and a set of very unhappy supporters.

Reasons to fear – Birmingham are scrapping for their life and the appointment of Garry Monk this week could give them the ‘new manager bounce’ many teams tend to get. Hopefully, it will have worn off by the time they get to the Macron.

Marc’s prediction – Back to winning ways at home, 2-0.

Derby County (A)

Reasons to cheer – The Rams have started to wobble, drawing a lot of games they perhaps should have won. There is great pressure on them to pick up, considering the money which has been invested.

Reasons to fear – Be it Baseball Ground, Pride Park or iPro Stadium, Wanderers have a dreadful historical record at Derby.

Marc’s prediction – Would love to be proved wrong, but I sense the streak could continue. Going for 2-1 Derby.

Millwall (H)

Reasons to cheer – Unlike Derby, Wanderers’ record against Millwall is excellent. Hats off to Neil Harris’s side, who have been great this season, but they won’t out-fight Wanderers on their own turf.

Reasons to fear – I wouldn’t want to go into this game with fragile confidence. Millwall have ruffled plenty of feathers.

Marc’s prediction – Wanderers win 1-0.

Barnsley (A)

Reasons to cheer – There hasn’t been a post-takeover honeymoon period for the South Yorkshire club, who are right in the thick of the relegation fight.

Reasons to fear – Oakwell does relegation six pointers quite well. They don’t possess a welcome mat.

Marc’s prediction – Parky the bus lads, a point will do. Going for 1-1.

Wolves (H)

Reasons to cheer – Wolves might well have the Championship title wrapped up by this point and bring Steve Bull out of retirement for a sentimental stroll.

Reasons to fear – By far and away the best team in the division, rivalled only by Fulham at their absolute best. Might be a long day.

Marc’s prediction – Wanderers to make a better fist of it than they did at Molineux – 2-3.

Burton Albion (A)

Reasons to cheer – Nigel Clough’s side have been dragged right back down into the mire of late. With only six more points up for grabs, their fate may already be decided.

Reasons to fear – The Brewers played very well at the Macron Stadium and fully deserved their win. Wanderers must improve.

Marc’s prediction – The away win which seals safety. Beers all round as Wanderers move on to 47 points.

Nottingham Forest (H)

Reasons to cheer – If it goes according to my plan, it’s party time at the Macron. If not, then Wanderers will fancy their chances in front of their own fans.

Reasons to fear – No Tyler Walker or Zach Clough, fingers-crossed Adam Le Fondre and Aaron Wilbraham stay fit or it could be tricky.

Marc’s prediction – David Wheater to head a late winner, sparking more pitch celebrations. 1-0 to the Wanderers.

Season prediction: Wanderers reach the 50-point mark and secure another season in the Championship.

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