Palmer's character test

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The Bolton manager Sam Allardyce believes the last thing that Carlton Palmer needs at the moment is a comforting word from him.

The former England midfielder has endured a traumatic start to his managerial career after replacing Andy Kilner at Stockport County. His team go into a delayed FA Cup third-round tie against Wanderers tonight trying to avoid an 11th straight defeat.

The Premiership side will arrive at Edgeley Park as firm favourites to reach the fourth round, but, asked if he had any sympathy for Palmer, Allardyce said: "Not really. The last person who would want any sympathy is Carlton because he is a very forthright man. He likes to speak his mind and says what he thinks. He wouldn't like anyone like me to be feeling sorry for him.

"It is very difficult for him at Stockport. When he comes out of it at the other end he'll be a better person for the experience he's had. But it's not very nice losing 10 on the trot."

Allardyce may be forced to field an under-strength side for the game as Paul Warhurst and Dean Holdsworth are suspended. The on-loan striker Fredi Bobic is ineligible while Mike Whitlow, Djibril Diawara and Bruno N'Gotty are all carrying injuries. The youngsters David Norris, Paul Wheatcroft and Derek Niven have been drafted into the squad.

Despite Stockport's poor record, Allardyce insists that Bolton will have to be on their guard. "The law of averages tells you they have to win sometime," he said. "Very often that can be in the FA Cup where the pressure of the day-to-day grind of the league is relieved. The players can sometimes express themselves more."

The Stockport striker Kevin Ellison will be fit for tonight's match. He was withdrawn during Sunday's defeat to Crystal Palace when it was feared that he had fractured a bone in his hand. However, X-rays revealed that he had suffered no damage.