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It seems that Bolton's defense has finally kicked on

After a year-and-a-half of holes at the back and the opposition carving Bolton Wanderers to bits, it seems that the Trotters finally have a bit of stability.

Tom Shaw

With the weekend's 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace being Bolton's second away clean sheet in as many games, Bolton fans may be worried that this is just a flash-in-the-pan, it's actually the latest peak in a recent trend.

Over the last nine games in all competitions, Bolton Wanderers have amassed just three wins (two in the league) while drawing three and losing three. It's not a great run of form but that said, it doesn't mean that the defense has been poor. In fact, in those nine games, Bolton have allowed 11 goals (1.2 goals per game). If you discount the 5-4 loss at Peterborough, an obvious fluke this season, that's seven goals in eight games (0.875 goals per game). Two of those goals came against Premier League opposition and had it not been for that home tie against Sunderland and the Peterborough affair, Bolton would have only allowed five goals in seven games (0.71 goals per game).

In that same stretch of nine games, the Trotters have kept three clean sheets, including two on the road and one against Premier League opposition. In only two of those nine matches, Bolton conceded more than one goal on just two occasions (Peterborough United away and Sunderland at home).

Why has this finally happened? Well, Bolton Wanderers finally have stability at the back. Tim Ream's ability to read the ball, especially in the air, has come good and is making a real impact for the Trotters when the other defenders make mistakes. Marcos Alonso has finally grown into his left back role and manages to go forward while still covering his defensive duties (until recently, it was always one or the other with him). Tyrone Mears is doing much the same on the other side of the field except that he has been doing it for pretty much the whole of this season. For whatever reason, he's been a scapegoat for the Bolton fans despite being one of the team's most solid defenders. Finally, Zat Knight, who has been much better this season than in years past, has really stepped up to the plate and become the big man at the back that we really needed him to be.

In order to see what kind of effect these performances have had in relation to the league, this is what the the top six teams look like in the same stretch:

  • Cardiff City:
    • Nine games, seven goals conceded, four clean sheets
  • Leicester City:
    • Nine games, five goals conceded, five clean sheets
  • Hull City:
    • Nine games, seven goals conceded, four clean sheets
  • Crystal Palace:
    • Nine games, 13 goals conceded, two clean sheets
  • Middlesbrough:
    • Nine games, 12 goals conceded, two clean sheets
  • Watford:
    • Nine games, 14 goals conceded, two clean sheets

Bolton's recent form is good but not great. That said, the most important thing is that the flow of opposition goals has been stemmed. What needs to happen now is a lot more production from the boys up top. If Bolton can continue allowing one goal or less per match while scoring a few at the other end, the wins should flow.