Bolton Wanderers vs MK Dons Preview: Bolton looking for third straight league win 
(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Bolton Wanderers’ start to this campaign was plagued by off the field irregularities. 

The first month of the season saw a run of five goals conceded in four consecutive games, whilst threats of liquidation loomed over the historic Lancashire club.

For Milton Keynes Dons however, after gaining promotion last season, momentum has quickly faded, with the Dons sitting inside the relegation zone and winless in their last nine league outings.

Back in control

With new ownership at the helm and financial troubles behind them, the Trotters are now in touching distance of overturning the twelve-point deduction placed on them at the start of the season.

Since Keith Hill took the managers hotseat on the last day of August, Bolton have still struggled to create any kind of form.

They’ve picked up three draws and three losses from their eight games, yet impressively have won on their last two outings, against play-off contenders Fleetwood Town and a top-half Bristol Rovers side.

In Hill’s tenure, Bolton have been somewhat more stable defensively. Despite conceding seventeen in nine games since the start of September, they had previously conceded the same amount in just five games in August.

This is countered by their offensive record. Bolton failed to score a single goal before Hill took over, yet now have seven in their last nine games - an amount that still ranks as the lowest in the entire division during this time period.

With some notable signings and an upsurge in form, Bolton fans will be hoping this side can turn a relegation threatened season into a memorable one and move the Wanderers away from the bottom three.

New manager Martin

The Dons poor start to the season resulted in the sacking of promotion winning gaffer Paul Tisdale, leaving the club sat in 21st with just four wins from the opening sixteen games.

In his place, Russell Martin, who had made eleven appearances for MK so far this season, was appointed as manager, a contentious decision amongst the Dons fan base.

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Martin subsequently announced his retirement from football to focus on his managerial duties and will take charge of his first league game this weekend away to Bolton.

Martin has already undergone a baptism of fire in his new role, falling 1-0 to League Two Port Vale in the FA Cup and an EFL Trophy loss to Wycombe Wanderers.

The challenge for Martin is clear to see. He must overturn a MK Dons side that has the joint second-worst goalscoring record in the division finding the net just thirteen times, and try to better a defence that has conceded a total of twenty-five from sixteen games.

Key Men

With both sides failing to impress it’s hard to pick out the star players from two underwhelming sides.

For Bolton, its clear goals are the difference between Hill finding results and the Trotters remaining in the drop zone. If Daryl Murphy, now 36-years-old, can begin to replicate the kind of form his shown in the division above, Wanderers may find results going their way.

Murphy has found the net twice so far this season and is winning an average of over seven aerial duels per game, his physical presence and goalscoring prowess is bound to be a handful for League One defenders.

For Dons, midfielder Conor McGrandles has been averaging over two tacklers per game as well as one key pass and one shot.

The Scotsman offers competent defensive work as well as potent attacking play, constantly attempting to unlock opposition defences, as demonstrated by his 76% pass accuracy.