Victory is all that counts as strugglers Bolton and Hull face-off in a relegation six-pointer

Bolton v Hull, Premier League, December 29, 2009

Bolton 10/11; Draw 11/4; Hull 4/1

Some matches over the New Year’s period set the heart racing. And then we arrive to the meeting of two of the league’s most unfashionable sides as third-bottom Bolton play host second-bottom Hull at the Reebok on Tuesday night.

After drawing with Burnley last time out, a win for Bolton is a must if they are to give themselves some breathing space heading into 2010. Gary Megson’s home record (2 wins, three draws and four defeats) is poor and a game against the Tigers should be winnable for his men.

Yet, predicting a Bolton win is a statement full of pitfalls. Bolton are dogged by the unenviable statistic of being the last remaining side in the top flight who have failed to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League this season. (Bolton are 5/8 to fail to keep a clean sheet.) It is now 19 games since another top-flight side failed to score against the Trotters, when Sunderland drew 0-0 back in May.

While their defence remains permanently porous though, at the other end Bolton have ben finding the net with regularity this season. (Bolton are 1/2 to win both halves.) With five goals to his name, Croatia forward Ivan Klasnic has started scoring for the club following his year-long loan switch from French club Nantes at the end of August. Yet Klasnic is only the club’s joint-top goalscorer, with sought-after centre-half Gary Cahill having chipping in with his own five goal haul since the start of the season.

Yet the goals are being shared around the Bolton team. Matty Taylor raised his tally to four with a splendid free-kick against Burnley at the weekend, while captain Kevin Davies, Johan Elmander and midfielders Tamir Cohen, Chung-Yong Lee have all contributed three goals to the cause.( Hull are 4/1 to keep a clean sheet.)

The Ginger Mourinho, saddled with one of the smaller squads in the league, is unlikely to be able to ring too many changes when Hull come to town. The Trotters are still without the services of Mustapha Riga (hamstring), Gavin McCann (ankle), Sean Davis (cruciate ligament) and Joey O’Brien (knee) for the clash, although Megson can recall Fabrice Muamba after a one match suspension served for collecting five bookings.

After putting in a good account of themselves against Manchester United, only to lose 3-1 to the reigning champions on Monday night, Phil Brown will be hoping his Tigers can pick themselves up for the massive relegation six-pointer against Bolton.

The end of 2009 has been up and down for Hull. After clinging onto the Premier League status by their fingernails last season, Hull have struggled to find consistency as they struggle to come to terms with their second year in the top flight.

To-date, November was the high-point in this year’s campaign with the gold and blacks having collected eight points from a possible 12. The period coincided with the return of Jimmy Bullard, but after the loveable schemer was forced back on the sidelines in his side’s 3-nil hammer at Aston Villa, December has proved tough going with just a single goal garnered from their goalless draw with Blackburn.

Manager Phil Brown has no major injury concerns to worry about, although Seyi Olofinjana will be absent due to his Africa Cup of Nations commitments, while the perma-tanned boss will also be aware that Dean Marney, Stephen Hunt and Kamil Zayatte are all one booking away from an automatic suspension.

Changes could be made up-front though, with the Tigers having failed to score in open play since to end of November. For all their hustle and bustle, strikers Jozy Altidore and Craig Fagan struggled to make a significant impact against Manchester United, which could allow the likes of Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, Kamel Ghilas or Geovanni to come into the attack.

It was Hull’s point at Bolton in a 1-all draw (7/1) in the penultimate game of last season that effectively secured the Tigers’ Premier League survival. Looking for a similar kick-start to their survival hopes this season, Hull will be looking to rewrite the history books that has seen them fail to win at Bolton since 1935.

101predicts: Bolton 1 – Hull 2 (17/1)

Bolton 10/11; Draw 11/4; Hull 4/1

Full match odds here.