Bolton are currently pushing for an immediate return to League One as they sit in third spot following an excellent recent run.
There was sad news for their fans last week though when news broke that Doug Holden, the last surviving member of the Stanley Matthews FA Cup final in 1953, had passed away at the age of 90.
The England international was part of the team that was naarrowly beaten by Blackpool 4-3 in one of the most memorable cup games ever, and spent 11 seasons with the club.
He put that defeat behind him when he won the FA Cup in the 1957/58 season. He made 463 appearances for the Wanderers, scoring 44 goals.
It appeared that Bolton were going to have to resign themselves to another season in League Two as they struggled to find results through the first half of the season, and that indifferent form continued into January, despite more work being done in the transfer window.
But then came February.
Something clicked as a home draw with Morecambe at the beginning of that month was followed by a home win over Stevenage.
Those results became part of a run of 16 games that brought them 12 wins, three draws and just the one defeat - that was on Easter Monday at Newport.
The haul of 39 points from a possible 48 catapulted Wanderers into the automatic places. They haven't smashed the ball out of the park in terms of goals scored (52), and the number of goals conceded - 47 - is about par for the division at this time of year, but they are extremely hard to beat and full of confidence.
They were at Grimsby on Saturday, and it was back down to earth with a bump as the division's bottom team scored early, and late, to establish an unlikely two-goal advantage. Even am injury time strike from former-United forward Shaun Miller wasn't enough to stave off the defeat.
17 goals in 40 games - it's predictable, but it has to be Eoin Doyle who gets the nod as the one to watch for this game.
He tends to lead the line just in front of the attacking support line, but he's adpatable, and most definitely a threat.
His goals come from inside and outside the area, and he likes to work off the shoulder as he hunts for space.
As for familiar faces, we could see Brandon Comley, Arthur Gnahoua, Gethin Jones or Shaun Miller again - all have played for the Blues in recent seasons.
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The first meeting of these teams for over 30 years was at Brunton Park on Boxing Day in 2020 ... and what a game it turned out to be.
Weather conditions were beyond awful, but the Blues came out of the traps quickly to establish a three-goal lead courtesy of strikes from Aaron Hayden, Lewis Alessandra and Omari Patrick.
George Thomason nabbed one back just before the break, and Bolton clawed their way back into it to earn a point courtesy of goals in the last five minutes from Nathan Delfouneso and Peter Kioso (who was subsequently sent off).
The highlights from that game are here:
Referee - Martin Coy
Assistant Referee 1 - Simon Clayton
Assistant Referee 2 - Richard Wigglesworth
Fourth Official - James Adcock
Observer - Mark Brown
The referee for this fixture is Mr Martin Coy.
Martin has taken charge of 28 games so far this season and has shown 72 yellow cards and five reds.
He was with us in January 2021 for a 1-0 home win over Exeter. Lewis Alessandra scored the goal, and Nick Anderton was the only booking on the day.
The December trip to Harrogate turned into an interesting evening as dipping temperatures sent an already struggling pitch over the edge. Just eight minutes into the game, and with the hosts a goal to the good, Mr Coy deemed that the surface had become too dangerous and United's first ever trip to Wetherby Road was cut short with the match abandoned due to safety reasons.
He was at Brunton Park in October 2020 for the 3-2 home win over Colchester where goals from Lewi Alessandra and Jon Mellish gave us a two-goal cushion. The U's pegged us back with strikes either side of the break, but Aaron Hayden sealed a deserved win with a late goal. Callum Guy, Jon Mellish and Joe Riley were booked on the afternoon.
We also had him for our 3-0 home defeat against Plymouth in January 2020. Aaron Hayden was sent off in the final minute of that fixture as tensions ran high.
Prior to that he was here for the 2-1 defeat at the hands of Port Vale back in November 2019.
Ryan Loft put us ahead with just one minute on the clock, but second half goals from Worrall and Cullen took the points the way of the hosts. Loft and Canice Carroll had their names taken on the day.
We saw him twice in the 2018/19 season, with our first meeting for the home defeat against Grimsby in October. The goal came in the first half from Luke Hendrie, but there were no United names entered into the book.
He was back here a month later for the 1-1 Checkatrade Trophy meeting with Stoke City under-21s. Jack Sowerby scored the goal and Gary Liddle was shown a yellow card.
He was with us three times during the 2017/18 season, with his first visit up north coming in August 2017 for our 3-0 home victory over Cheltenham. Tom Miller and Reggie Lambe added to a fifth minute own goal from Harry Pell, and Mark Ellis was the only Carlisle booking on the day.
We saw him again for our November Checkatrade Trophy group game against Fleetwood, where a certain Jack Sowerby opened the scoring on the night. Wes Burns doubled the lead just before half time, and a late Shaun Miller goal did little to affect the outcome as the visitors took the win come full time. Tom Miller and Jamie Devitt received yellow cards that night.
His last trip to Brunton Park during that campaign was for our 2-2 draw with Crawley in March. Richie Bennett and Hallam Hope appeared to have done the job with goals to give us a 2-0 lead, but the Red Devils recovered and claimed their point courtesy of a brace from Kalen Grant. United names taken were Clint Hill, Hallam Hope and Tom Parkes.
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