Spurs are bok for another battle in Bolton

PLENTY may have changed at Tottenham since they last travelled to the Reebok Stadium in January, leaving beaten 3-2 and just one point above the relegation zone. But Bolton have remained in a temporal timewarp...

By Ben Pearce

PLENTY may have changed at Tottenham since they last travelled to the Reebok Stadium in January, leaving beaten 3-2 and just one point above the relegation zone.

But Bolton have remained in a temporal timewarp - the fans still don't like watching a negative 4-5-1 set-up both home and away, and they still want manager Gary Megson out after two years in the job.

Poor old Megson has had little credit for keeping the Trotters in the Premier League for the last two years, especially when he took over a side with five points from 10 games in October 2007.

However, Bolton fans have become frustrated with the lack of progression at their club - having been a top-flight outfit since 2001, they are still locked into the strong-arm tactics, physicality and simple, survival football which was employed under Sam Allardyce.

Despite the discontent, the trademark direct approach has continued unabated this season, and both goals in the 2-1 win over Birmingham on Saturday came from set pieces.

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Israeli midfielder Tamir Cohen has certainly profited since his �650,000 move in January, and is currently the leading scorer with three - the latest two coming from a Kevin Davies flick-on and a corner.

Bolton have scored a total of eight league goals so far this season and - Cohen's triple contribution apart - have registered from two penalties, a close-range Davies strike from another corner, a Gary Cahill header from a long throw - flicked on by Davies - and a rebound from a Matt Taylor free-kick.

It is easy to understand why the Trotters faithful are underwhelmed by the local version of the beautiful game, and Megson's methods are yet to produce a Premier League victory at home this season.

Indeed, Taylor's last-minute penalty against Stoke two weeks ago, which salvaged a 1-1 draw, saved the hosts from losing all three of their opening home fixtures.

However, Bolton's physicality has proved to be Kryptonite for Spurs over the last 13 years. Tottenham have never won a league game at the Reebok Stadium in nine attempts. Their last win league win in Bolton came at the old Burnden Park stadium, a 3-2 victory in 1996.

The aggregate score over that period is 15-6 to Bolton, and Spurs have failed to score in four of their last nine efforts, only netting more than once on one occasion - last season.

That 3-2 defeat was a perfect case study of the form guide up in Lancashire, as Megson's side scored from three high balls into the box, including two corners, with Davies scoring twice.

However, travelling Tottenham fans will be hopeful of a different outcome this time, and Harry Redknapp maintains that his side are now harder to bully - highlighting the 5-1 win away at Hull on the as the kind of game that Spurs would have lost in the past.

When the manager bought Peter Crouch, he admitted that the 6ft 7ins forward's frame would be an asset in such games. That said, the boss omitted his new signing at Hull, preferring to unleash the dynamic movement of Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane on the lumbering City rearguard. He could do the same this weekend, regardless of Bolton's aerial threat.

Meanwhile, Megson will certainly be concerned about his opponents, and is likely to pit Ricardo Gardner's pace against Aaron Lennon's, although Gavin McCann and Chung-Yong Lee are also options.

The Bolton supremo should stick with his 4-5-1 system, but if points are still up for grabs in the last half-hour that could become 4-4-2 with Davies moving further forward to join loanee Ivan Klasnic.

JournalSport verdict: As usual, much will depend on Tottenham's ability to defend high balls into their box, but if they can handle Davies, Cohen and Cahill, they will neutralise the home side's primary threat.

At the other end, Bolton have conceded five goals in their opening three home fixtures, and that number is likely to increase if Spurs pick up where they left off against Preston and Burnley last week - 2-1 Spurs win.