Monday 03 March 2014
Bolton Wanderers Under-21s host Everton at the Reebok Arena on Monday evening with an eye on cementing their place in the top half of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League.
The assistant manager at Bolton, Lennie Lawrence, says the Under-21s has been a positive for a club, which has been struggling in the Championship this season.
"You have to show patience and this Under-21 league is far better than the past reserve football"
"It's been a great experience for us, especially as one of a handful of clubs outside the Premier League with Category A status," Lawrence said. "So we have the Games Programme which gives us a set of very demanding fixtures. We play all the top teams but we value it and the competition.
"Jamie Fullerton, the Under-21 coach, has done a fantastic job, which is reflected by the position and the nature of the performances and by the fact that three [Conor Wilkinson, Cian Bolger, Sanmi Odelusi] have been loaned out to lower-division clubs, which is an integral part of player development.
Lawrence is looking forward to the match being at the Reebok.
"There is nothing like playing at your main stadium; it helps to make it a better experience," he said. "Not only having the stands but also the quality of the playing surface and there is less chance of the wind affecting the game, as can often happen at training grounds. That is why we are keen for the matches to take place at stadiums as much as possible."
Another boost for Bolton for the match is the return of Stuart Holden, who is scheduled to feature as part of the midfielder's recovery from a knee injury suffered on duty for the United States.
"He's been looking good in training and hopefully it will be a step in his rehabilitation," Lawrence said. "It will be a great experience for the youngsters, who don't often have the chance to be alongside a senior player of his calibre."
Lawrence says Bolton line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with a structured style of play and a threat on the counter-attack but perhaps a weakness is their players' lack of height. However, they have, he says, a high level of skill, fitness and movement that is being aided by the competition that started last year.
"It would be a feather in our cap if we beat Everton"
As players to watch on the Bolton side Lawrence picked out a couple of full-backs, Hayden White, who has played for the first team, and Andy Kellett, as well as Josh Vela, in the midfield, and Zach Clough up front.
"There are a few quite talented players but we are not the biggest or strongest but you have to show patience and this Under-21 league is far better than the past reserve football," he added.
Although Everton are currently in the bottom half of the table, Lawrence says they will be respected by his team but he is hoping, after away victories over Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool this season, that Bolton can claim another big-name scalp.
"Everton will be good opponents," Lawrence said. "They will be well coached and well organised and it would be a feather in our cap if we beat them.
"We have had some good results, including beating Spurs 5-2 away a couple of weeks ago and beating Liverpool at their place but we have had a couple of wallopings as you'd expect now and again.
"The Games Programmes is very challenging and Jamie and the boys deserve great credit for what they have done there."
Admission for the Bolton Wanderers v Everton match is priced at £3 for adults and £1 for concessions. Season ticket holders can enter free of charge.
Monday 3 March
*7pm unless specified
Blackburn Rovers v Newcastle United, Ewood Park
Bolton Wanderers v Everton, Reebok Stadium
Liverpool v Reading, Langtree Park
Middlesbrough v Aston Villa, Riverside Stadium
West Bromwich Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Ricoh Arena
Find out the full Barclays U21 Premier League fixture list here and view the table here.