Football - Freedman erring on side of caution

Bolton manager Dougie Freedman insists he will proceed carefully with his returning long-term absentees ahead of Burnley's visit to the Reebok Stadium.

PA Sport

Influential USA midfielder Stuart Holden came through 90 minutes of a practice match at Wanderers' Euxton training ground this week, further building his fitness after featuring as a substitute in the FA Cup matches against Sunderland and Everton.

Fellow knee-injury victim David Wheater played alongside Holden in the game having made a return for Bolton's Under-21 side against Manchester City last Friday.

Mark Davies (shoulder) is also pushing for a comeback in midfield although this week's derby clash comes too soon for himself, Wheater and defender Matt Mills (thigh).

"We have been missing key players," boss Dougie Freedman told Bolton's official website. "Mark Davies, David Wheater, Stuart Holden and Matt Mills have all been missing which is a shame for us and for our fans.

"A few of them came through a practice game earlier this week. Stuart was able to play a couple of 90-minute games now, and he is desperate to get back, but I have got a responsibility to his career and I can't just throw him in there.

"He is a top international player, but I don't want to just throw him in there and put a lot of pressure on him when he is not quite ready yet.

"Both Wheater and Davies are days away. They have been training with us, but it is unlikely that they will be in contention for this Saturday's game. But next weekend's fixture against Nottingham Forest is a more likely date for their returns."

Midfielder Keith Andrews remains a doubt having been sidelined in recent weeks by thigh and Achilles problems.

Deadline day signing Steve De Ridder came off the bench to make his debut in last weekend's 2-1 defeat at Watford, where fellow new recruit Craig Dawson was an unused substitute.

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