For two teams struggling to meet their promotion aspirations, this weekend’s fixture at the Reebok Stadium could provide a crucial opportunity to kick-start their respective Championship campaigns.
Relegated Bolton began the season as second favourites for the title but a shocking start, in which they won just two of the opening seven games, saw Owen Coyle lose his job and the Trotters seemingly set for mid-table mediocrity.
An initial upsurge under new manager Dougie Freedman saw Bolton go unbeaten for November but that run came to a crushing halt with a 2-1 home defeat to third-bottom Ipswich that left them 18th with nearly half the season gone.
Four places ahead sit Simon Grayson’s Huddersfield, in a position they surely would have accepted when they won a memorable League One play-off final in May. But having sat third in late October, the wheels have somewhat come off a promising first campaign back at this level.
Given both sides’ lack of confidence, there is little to separate them in the 3Way betting market, with Bolton slight favourites at 7/5, Huddersfield at 9/5 and the draw a very inviting 9/4.
It would be no surprise to see a typically tight Battle of the Roses tussle like Bolton’s recent 1-1 draw with Barnsley or Huddersfield’s 2-2 draw at home to Blackburn ensue, which makes draw/draw at half-time/full-time or 0-0 at half-time good value at 17/4 and 11/5 respectively.
However, Huddersfield’s defence haven’t looked capable of keeping it tight of late, conceding ten in their last four games, including a tempestuous 4-2 loss to Leeds United at the John Smith’s Stadium last time out.
So Bolton will fancy their chances of not just scoring at 11/50 but getting the opening goal at 9/10, as they did against Ipswich last weekend.
Yet Freedman’s side have hardly been bullet-proof themselves, keeping just two clean sheets all campaign, and they have also developed a worrying habit of conceding late goals.
Michael Chopra’s 90th-minute winner last week was the seventh time they have conceded in the last 15 minutes this season.
Grayson will be hoping his side, buoyed by the return of striker James Vaughan and winger Sean Scannell, can take similar advantage and win the second half at 2/1.
New customers using the free £20 bet available when signing up to a bwin account would win £82 should Huddersfield claim a point after falling behind by backing lead-draw in the run of play market.
If I had to stick my neck out for one team, I’d back a narrow Bolton win (or draw in the 1-0 handicap market at 31/10) given their ability to call on internationals Chung-Young Lee and Martin Petrov.
But given both sides’ relative lack of form and need to get a result, it would be typical if both were left disappointed with a sharing of the spoils and at the 9/4 on offer, that is surely the way to go here.