By Tony Leighton
Bolton Wanderers manager Dougie Freedman will urge his team to lay down a statement of promotion intent when they face Reading in their first home match of the new Sky Bet Championship season on Saturday.
The Trotters agonisingly missed out on a Play-Off place on goal difference last term, Freedman having taken charge in late October as the Reebok Stadium club attempted to regain their Premier League status at the first attempt following relegation at the end of the 2011/12 campaign.
Injuries were largely to blame for narrowly failing to reach the top six, says Freedman, who has bolstered his playing squad during the summer with the aim of this time ending the season with Bolton once more a top flight club.
The Trotters boss told football-league.co.uk: "We were without key players at the end of last season and that's what did for us. You've got to have a bit of luck as well as all the other ingredients to get promotion, and we ran out of luck.
"So this season we've got to make sure that we keep our players on the pitch, that's the key to it. We've got a good starting XI, and although we may need to add one or two to the squad that's just for strength in depth in case of injuries.
"We've already had a couple of players take knocks, but it's been a decent start to the season for us and I'm looking forward to the Reading game. It's a big test against a team that's just come down from the Premier League and that's got some very good players, but at the Reebok we can give anybody a game."
Freedman's team will be looking for their first Championship win of the campaign after drawing 1-1 in their local derby at Burnley on the opening day of the campaign, though they followed that result with a solid 3-1 Capital One Cup victory at League 1 Shrewsbury Town in midweek.
Now their attention turns back to the League and a run of tough games with Nottingham Forest, Queens Park Rangers, Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United - all tipped as strong promotion contenders - to follow the meeting with Reading.
Don't tell Freedman that he has a few tough games coming up, however. "Every Championship game is tough!" he insisted. "I understand the point because teams like Reading, Forest and Blackburn have been really strengthening, but there's no such thing as an easy game in this division.
"It's going to be a difficult season again in terms of competitiveness, but I feel that we've got a well-equipped squad to handle that. If we can get our starting XI out we're a match for anybody, and if we can make sure that the younger players are pushing the more experienced guys we should be aiming for the top six."
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