It’s not often I feel the need to issue an apology before recommending a bet but everything has its price and the 12/1 available on relegated Bolton to beat leaders Middlesbrough on home soil is just obscene. So, sorry, the potential for embarrassment is high but that shouldn’t matter. Play this game, under these conditions, 100 times and Bolton win at least a dozen.
Gutless is probably the best way to describe Wanderers' efforts this term, but talentless is no way to describe their dressing room. David Wheater, Mark Davies, Darren Pratley, Neil Danns, Josh Vela, Zach Clough - this is anything but a collection of no-hopers. There’s clearly something wrong with the chemistry behind the scenes and the problem is mainly one of attitude.
But all that can change in front of the television cameras, and often does. Players looking for moves elsewhere, or merely trying to clear their conscience, can be desperate to put in a solid performance that suggests they are not culprits. If enough individuals approach it in the same manner, then you’re suddenly presented with an overall display that prompts much bemusement.
The Trotters have been on telly four times this season and they remain unbeaten, conceding just one goal. A 1-0 win over Blackburn on December 28 came when the level of shame was almost comparable, less than 48 hours after a 4-0 hiding at Rotherham. Blackburn had an extra six days in their legs that day but you could barely tell because Bolton were trying.
If there’s any fatigue around at the Macron on Saturday, it’s going to be with Middlesbrough and it's likely be emotional as much as physical. Aitor Karanka’s men have been riding quite the rollercoaster in recent weeks and one wonders whether they scaled the sort of peak in midweek that ensures only a dip can follow. A flat performance is due somewhere down the line.
According to the local newspaper, Adam Forshaw’s stoppage-time winner against Reading triggered a level of euphoria comparable to last season’s play-off semi-final second-leg victory over Brentford. And so long as Karanka, the players and the Boro fans convince themselves this can only be a good thing, that momentum is with them and automatic promotion is ’meant to be’, they’re on a dangerous footing.
The win over the Royals has taken the Teessiders back to the top of the Championship but their record over the past 20 months when holding that position is ropey to say the least. Last season, they spent 11 days at the summit, across four different spells, and always failed to win their next game. This season, they’ve coped a little better but defeats to Bristol City (0-1), Nottingham Forest (0-1) and Rotherham (0-1) all occurred when they were top.
Indeed, that Rotherham defeat is one of seven suffered against bottom-half opposition this term and one of eight when they’ve failed to score. With that in mind, you’ll understand where I’m going with a supplementary wager on Bolton to win 2-0 at 90/1. We copped on that correct score when Boro went down at Charlton just over a month ago. We thought 35/1 was ridiculous then.
Click here for more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system