Phil Parkinson conceded a miserable week off the pitch played a significant part as Bolton slipped to a 2-1 home defeat against Sky Bet Championship basement club Ipswich on Saturday.
Bolton’s players went on strike over the unpaid wages of non-playing staff earlier this week, while the club survived another High Court winding-up order before a prohibition notice and an IT failure threatened the postponement of the match. The players themselves are said to still be awaiting payment.
Against that backdrop, on-loan striker Collin Quaner scored twice in 11 first-half minutes for Ipswich to keep Town’s slender survival hopes alive.
But Bolton’s chances of joining them in League One next season have increased after they failed to build on the previous weekend’s victory at QPR, with Josh Emmanuel’s stoppage-time own goal only serving to reduce the deficit.
“You can only take so many knocks as a team and that’s what it looked like in the first half,” said Parkinson.
“We looked like a team who had had the stuffing knocked out of them and also hadn’t trained properly.
“The preparation this week hasn’t been good enough for a Championship-level performance in a game of this magnitude
“You look at the first 45 minutes and we were so far off the pace, with the ball and without the ball.
“As a staff, if you have two or three players who haven’t trained, we always think ‘do we play them or not?’
“But when you have a whole squad who haven’t been able to prepare properly it shows. Everyone watching the game would have seen that.
“In the first half, Ipswich looked like a team who were already down and playing with a bit of freedom.
“They also played as though they had had a good week’s preparation and we were just the opposite.
“Last week we had such a lift by winning at QPR. Then the lads needed a lift in terms of ‘are we getting paid? Has the club been taken over?’ That didn’t happen.
“The lads actually trained well on Thursday and Friday but you could see we looked off the pace.”
Ipswich manager Paul Lambert revealed he had his team lined up for a training session at Manchester City had the game not taken place.
Instead, a text at 6.30am on Saturday morning was Lambert’s confirmation engineers had finally fixed the IT issues that had put the game in doubt.
“It was a disgrace,” he commented. “At this level, there’s something not quite right.
“The Bolton fans must be going mad with it. Even for ourselves to come up six hours on Friday and our supporters as well.”
Lambert, though, was far happier with the final outcome.
“The football was great, we controlled the game and the two goals were fitting for the first half,” said the Scot.
“I am disappointed with the goal in the last minute but performance-wise it was very good.
“The performance doesn’t surprise me because we have been playing well for weeks and months. We just haven’t had the reward until now.
“You can have all the great play you want but you need that finishing touch and Collin produced two brilliant finishes.”
Ipswich remain 13 points from safety with only six games remaining but Lambert refuses to give-up.
“Until someone says ‘that’s you away’ you keep picking teams you think can win games,” he added. “That is what I did today.”