I hope you are all ready for this because it is an absolute beast. Seriously go ahead grab some snacks and a beverage for this one as we really do have it all in this episode! Not only do we navigate through March, April to the curtain call in May, there are pre-contracts confirmed, Grimsby’s timely poor form and a league 2 record that is broken as well as a club record! Screenshot galore this one just so you guys can see exactly what is going on, when things happened and how it happened but lets get stuck in and navigate through this crazy episode.
Last time in episode 5, my Bolton side found themselves top of league 2 once again following two months with no losses and Grimsby our league title rivals having a wobble with their form in what could be key in this back and forth title race. With Grimsby building a small winless run, we had to try and take advantage to give us a good enough cushion just in case we suffered anything similar.
Fixture wise, March looked more or less straight forward, bar a match against promotion chasing Walsall later in the month which would be a good test for the team but now we have no domestic cup competitions to worry about, full focus was on the league and it was all systems go.
The first 3 games were against sides we’d already beaten and fairly comfortably so the aim was to ensure we beat all 3 teams in Oldham, Bradford and Cambridge home and away to keep our momentum going. Oldham was a tough game last time out but this time we showed our dominance with a big 4-0 win away, a few days later we got past Bradford 2-1 which wasn’t the best performance but we got what we needed in a win. Same again, we made it 3 wins in March in as many games by getting past Cambridge 2-0.
In the mean time, Grimsby were still struggling meaning we were taking full advantage of their miss-fortunes.
1 point in five games from our closest league rivals whilst we had taken 13 points from our last five which was just what needed to build a gap. Up next ourselves, we had Port Vale who were in the plays off and rising with some good momentum. A 1-1 draw was to be had which was probably about right on the day, but the point gave us some good news in our quest for promotion.
My side were the first to secure a play off spot as early as the middle of March, two months before the season ends which is brilliant in addition to our 16 game unbeaten league run! But this was out of mind against Walsall who frustrated my team and came away with a stubborn 1-0 win – almost a Mourinho special from Walsall so fair play we move on. To finish of March 2021, a game against Forest Green Rovers brought a 2-1 victory, again not necessarily pretty but its 3 points which is all that matters at this point.
A not bad month in March but we still had a cushion over Grimsby just in time to getting into a big month in the league going into April.
Going into April, Grimsby were 8 points behind after the points dropped towards the end of March but I was still confident in securing the title. To make things even more interesting we had a fixture vs. our title rivals in this month too!
The business end of the season begins with a 1-0 win vs. Colchester, quite a dominant performance from the team and got the result to give us some momentum. This win ultimately secured us promotion to League 1 guaranteeing us an automatic promotion place!
On the 3rd April we secured our first pre-contract signing in Scottish forward Simon Murray. Bit of a journeyman north of the border probably best known for his time at Dundee Utd, I got him in for his insane work rate and his versatility across the front 3. Doyle will need competition next season and I feel this was a decent signing for us.
Back to the games and up next we had Newport County who were having a good season but a great performance and we secure a deserved 3-1 victory. Bottom of the table Harrogate Town were up next and to be fair to them they gave us a game but we came away with a decent 2-1 result setting us up on a 4 game win run before the big Grimsby match.
And here it is the big match of the season and it was a load of &%!#. For it’s build up and what a win could’ve done for both teams, it had about 3 highlights the whole game and even what happened in the highlights I wouldn’t consider key but we keep the 8 point gap going into the Carlisle match. And yes Carlisle who beat us…again, the less said about that the better. It was a loss that we didn’t need at this stage.
But after that loss, another pre-contract was agreed with Saxon Earley from Norwich who was set for release so I was able to approach to sign. A young centre midfielder, with a bit of game time I reckon he can progress into the match day squad but good potential especially in these leagues.
Back to the league action and we finish off April with a trip to Morecambe, feeling nervy as dropped points could put Grimsby right back in contention but a second half goal from the ever reliable Delfouneso got us 3 vital points with 2 games remaining. At end of April the title chase looked like this.
Very simple here, 3 points in our next game and we’ve done it, absolutely nothing more to it.
The month of May, the last 2 games of this long season and it could all be defined with a win in the first match but it’s not always that easy is it?
Exeter were up first and the squad was nervous, all I could do is try to calm them down before match. It kind of worked as we were good defensively but also fired a blank at the other end. However, our fellow title challengers seem to follow suit which only meant one thing…
BOLTON WANDERERS LEAGUE 2 CHAMPIONS!!! Pandemonium at the stadium as due to Grimsby having the same result in their game, the 5 point gap remained leaving us as champions with a game to spare – relief for sure.
I still fielded a strong side in the final game against Crawley who didn’t have a great second half of the season falling out the play off places but there was a league record to be had – most League 2 points haul. The current record is 102 points and with a win Bolton would hold a new record of 103 points and we done so finishing the season positively with a 2-1 win!
There was one club record broken too for most wins in a single league season, the old record was 28 but we smashed it and it is now sitting at 31 wins. Champions and two records broken, to me that is a season of success. Final standings for you all below!
Newport County join my Bolton side and Grimsby in League One next season through the last automatic place, meanwhile Leyton Orient who snuck into the play offs on the last day, upset the odds and beat Salford in the final to come up as well! Salford’s manager was immediately sacked after the final too, brutal to say the least. For those wondering, Cambridge Utd & Harrogate Town were relegated to the VNL.
I’m absolutely elated at this point, WE DONE IT!
Well firstly we’ll all take a breathe or two after all of that! Season 1 will come to a close in episode 7 with our end of season review where I reflect on the season and celebrate all our successes with yourselves. I will give an indication on my plans for the League One season in terms of tactics, transfer target positions and also our end of year finances just so you can all see what we’re working with at Bolton.
While you’re here and in the reading zone, go and check out Louis’ series Unemployed, Unskilled & Inexperienced where he starts from the bottom with nothing on a quest to manager superstardom! Get started here and then navigate your way through his journey so far! https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/unemployed-unskilled-inexperienced-season-1-episode-1/
To all of you who have managed to read through this episode, I thank you as always and hope you enjoy our successes as part of the DP-FM family. As always its been a pleasure, look out for the season finale on the 10th January and hope you all stay safe during these testing times