Graeme Anderson’s Verdict: Sunderland fans’ pain is set to continue at Bolton

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THIS could be a long afternoon for both sets of fans.

Sunderland have struggled desperately in recent months, especially on their travels and have not scored away from home since the first week of February.

It’s a situation hardly likely to be improved by the fact that, for the second week in a row, the Black Cats go into Saturday’s game without a single recognised striker to call upon

Steve Bruce’s men can take some heart from the fact that Bolton too have faltered.

The Trotters have won only two of their last seven games.

Not only that, but Owen Coyle’s men produced a pretty abject performance in their last outing – losing 1-0 to a poor Blackburn side in a display which suggested that after a long, hard season, the minds of several Wanderers’ players may already be on their summer holidays.

To be fair to Bolton, the wind was sucked out of their sails by the 5-0 FA Cup semi-final thrashing at the hands of Stoke last month.

They bounced back admirably with a stunning victory over Arsenal but before and after that win, they have looked jaded.

Injuries have not helped and while Bruce might claim the honours for most packed treatment room in the Premier League, Bolton have had their problems too.

Influential players Sam Ricketts and Stuart Holden are on the long-term injury list while Daniel Sturridge, Gretar Steinsson, Ricardo Gardner and Mark Davies have all had knocks that have kept them out recently.

Of those injured, it is the loss of Holden which has comfortably hit Bolton the hardest – the Wanderers’ midfield playmaker, he pulled the strings in the early part of the season, encouraging the team to play football.

And in his absence the side has reverted to a much more route one approach, with Johan Elmander and Kevin Davies prominent.

All in all, it all adds up to a dour game of football in prospect – Sunderland likely to go 4-5-1; Bolton pumping the long ball endlessly forward.

The trouble for the travelling faithful is that you just can’t see where Sunderland’s next win is coming from. And on top of that, the Black Cats will be up against a side whose strength all season has been their home form.

Bolton have lost only twice at the Reebok in the current campaign and only Manchester United and Spurs have better home records than that this season.

The most likely scenario tomorrow is that Sunderland will play some pretty football without hurting the home team and Bolton will win ugly – scuffing, bundling or clubbing one or two goals home to increase the woe on Wearside.

VERDICT: Home win.