Premier League Preview: Bolton Wanderers Vs Hull City, Reebok Stadium, Bolton, England, Tuesday 29th 2009, 20:00GMT.
The Tigers travel to the Reebok on the tail end of a torrid festive season. From sitting in 16th place, three points above the relegation zone, they have suffered two defeats in as many games, which has left them languishing in 19th place, just below Bolton Wanderers, on the same points.
However, Phil Brown, the Hull City boss, will have taken heart from the games. Gaining any points to Arsenal at the Emirates and Manchester United at the KC Stadium would have been long shots for the East Yorkshire Club. The manner in which the Tiger's lost the games though would hardly have suggested the huge disparity in league position's between the top four clubs and Hull City.
In both games, Brown's Tigers played some good football, but against such good sides it is vitally important that you convert your chances, and the Tigers just didn't do that and ultimately they paid the price.
Gary Megson has also had his problems recently, with Bolton fans unhappy with his sides style of play, but his side's three match unbeaten run will have given him a feeling of optimism for the New Year.
Although, with the Trotters still in the drop zone, a win against Hull City would possibly take his side out of the relegation zone for the first time since the beginning of December.
Earlier this season the Tigers fought out a battling one-nil victory at the KC Stadium, with Bolton having the lion share of the encounter but unable to put the Tigers to the sword, they paid dearly for this.
With 30 minutes left on the clock, Brown changed the Tiger's formation from a defensive 4-5-1 formation to a traditional 4-4-2 formation, bringing on the young American, Jozy Altidore for Caleb Folan, who had worked tirelessly on his own up front.
The New Jersey native breathed a new lease of life in to the Tigers and gave them the much needed strength up front. His hold-up play was superb and with the extra space he created for the midfield to move forward, it allowed the Tigers to go on the offensive.
Altidore's first touch was a deft chest down and a swinging right foot chip over the Bolton back line. A swift footed Ghilas latched on to it, and with a couple of touches smashed it past the huge Finnish goalkeeper, Jussi Jääskeläinen.
For much of the game, Geovanni, the mercurial Brazilian, had spent his time chasing the Bolton midfielder's shadows but with the extra space he was like a player reborn. He made some telling passes and runs. Not least a beautifully threaded pass for Altidore who squandered the chance as he was dragged wide by the Bolton defense.
In another wonderful opportunity for the Tigers and Altidore, the American shot just wide of the Bolton post, leaving him holding his head in his hands in despair. Ghilas, not to be left out, had a beautiful shot ricochet off the crossbar that left him holding his head in his hands as well.
The Tigers ended the game in the ascendancy and Gary Megson's Bolton team were left ruing their missed chances. Just like last season, where the Tigers felt that it was only the fantastic play of Jääskeläinen, so did Bolton in November were it was the superb play of Hull City's other American, the Californian born Boaz Myhill, that stopped them from gaining three valuable Premiership points.
Both teams have been having issues with missing players over the congested Christmas period but Megson will be pleased that Fabrice Muamba will be back from suspension, but it looks like Gavin McCann is likely to miss out again as he is still not recovered from his ankle injury.
The Tigers and Brown are still without the services of the influential midfielder Jimmy Bullard, who is out with a sprained medial ligament in his knee, along with club skipper Ian Ashbee, also suffering from a knee injury. Nick Barmby, who sustained a calf injury in the recent three-nil loss to Arsenal last week, is still out.
The importance of this fixture won't be lost on these two dogged managers, both Megson and Brown will appreciate just how important this game is for their respective clubs. The Tigers have the Bolton game sandwiched between games against some of the countries top clubs in Chelsea, Tottenham then the return fixture with Manchester United still to come.
Bolton play Sunderland, Arsenal, and then the important game against Burnley. For both clubs, three points from this game could be vital by the end of the season. For Bolton, it is imperative that they keep their current run of form going but for the Tigers, who have lost two on the bounce despite valiant efforts, they need to get back to winning ways.