Bolton's lack of distractions can benefit Big Sam

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The Independent Football

Bolton manager Sam Allardyce believes his side's failure to qualify for Europe this season could prove a blessing in disguise come the end of the season. Bolton finished in eighth place in the Premiership last season, just two points off an automatic return to the Uefa Cup, having qualified for the competition the previous campaign.

Today Bolton travel to Blackburn chasing a fourth straight League win that would consolidate their excellent start to the season. And their chances of doing just that must have been improved by Mark Hughes' side, who did qualify for this year's competition, having to play in Warsaw on Thursday night.

David Bentley's last-gasp winner ensured Rovers success on the night, but Allardyce feels his side should have an advantage in the long run. Asked if his side's form was due in part to their not having a European distraction, he said: "I think so. Competing in Europe this year would have been extremely difficult based on the injuries that have occurred.

"We've only just got Quinton Fortune on the bench to replace an academy player - if we were playing in Europe with seven substitutes we'd have had to use three academy players on the bench, or use an academy player in the game itself.

"Tottenham, Blackburn and Newcastle have been in and around us in the top eight or so the last two or three years, and this time they're competing in Europe and we're not, so hopefully that might be an advantage in allowing us to get back to where we want to be."

Allardyce is hardly expecting Blackburn to lie down, however - the Ewood Park side followed up their previous two appearances in the Uefa Cup this season with home victories over Manchester City and Wigan.

"I'd expect there might be one or two changes in their side and some fatigue left over in their players, so we want to try and take advantage if that's the case. If we do keep the game nice and tight, somewhere along the line those players will tire after that big result in Poland.

"Looking at their results after Europe recently, it hasn't had an effect on the team. They've managed it well up to now but we hope we can take advantage of anything we can get on Sunday."

Allardyce has the luxury of being able to name an unchanged line-up for the fourth successive game, following Bolton's impressive wins over Portsmouth, Liverpool and Newcastle. "I don't see any need to break it up," he said. "In any case, we've got so few players available, we're just about being able to fill the bench."

El Hadji Diouf, who scored the two goals that overcame Newcastle in the second half on Sunday, will again feature in a three-pronged attack, with Kevin Davies likely to start on the right and £8m striker Nicolas Anelka in the middle.

Another bonus for Bolton is that they will be backed by one of their largest away followings of recent times. Over 7,000 Wanderers fans are expected to fill the Darwen End of the 31,000-capacity stadium after the last of the club's allocation of 5,600 tickets - which have been reduced for all fans on the day to £15 by Blackburn - selling out on Thursday. A further 1,500 tickets will be on sale to Bolton supporters today.

"It should be a full house hopefully as it appears all our fans have decided to buy all the tickets up and come and support us, which will be great," added Allardyce. "We want to give them something to sing about."