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Goalkeepers' duel: has Andy Lonergan proven that he deserves number one?

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Adam Bogdan has been the preferred goalkeeper of Owen Coyle, Jimmy Phillips, and Dougie Freedman this season but with Andy Lonergan's pair of recent performances, one has to wonder whether the man with the number one on his back has done enough to be dropped from the starting lineup.

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The ongoing debate among the fans about which goalkeeper is a better option for the Trotters has raged from nearly the first kick of the season to now.

Is it a coincidence that both of Andy Lonergan's league starts this season have resulted in clean sheets for Bolton Wanderers? Yes, it is. The fact of the matter is that Lonergan has only had two league games for Bolton Wanderers and that is way too small of a sample size to judge anything by. The picture becomes a little bit clearer when cup matches are thrown into the mix where Andy Lonergan has played six total games for Bolton this season to Adam Bogdan's 35.

If we're going purely by the numbers, Bogdan has been forced into 161 saves over those 35 games for an average of 4.6 saves per game. He has conceded 48 goals this season (1.37 goals per game) but in the last 12 games that he has played in (those immediately following the 5-4 Peterborough loss which, for all intents and purposes, is an outlier this season), those numbers have been much better. With a solid defense ahead of him, Bogdan has conceded 12 goals in 12 games (1 goal per game).

In six games for Andy Lonergan, the goalkeeper has been forced into 32 stops (5.33 per match) and has conceded six goals (the same one per game as Bogdan).

Where the numbers differ is in clean sheets. In league play, both goalkeepers have kept two in that same 12 game stretch with Bogdan's coming against Crystal Palace and Peterborough and Longergan's against Blackburn and Brighton & Hove Albion. In all matches (completely league play) for Adam Bogdan, he has kept five clean sheets. Andy Lonergan has kept three clean sheets in all competitions. On all three occasions that Lonergan conceded goals, it was always two put past him.

There is the argument that Lonergan has faced tougher competition in that he has played three matches against Premier League sides (and kept a clean sheet in one of those games). However, in two of those three games, Lonergan conceded four goals and when you count the early season Capital One Cup clash against Crawley Town, that's six goals from four cup games.

You can dive deeper into the goals, specifically those in the FA Cup though. In the first match against Sunderland, a 2-2 draw at the Reebok, Lonergan could have done much better on the Black Cats' first goal, which went through his legs. The second goal, a Craig Gardner strike from distance, was pretty much unstoppable. In the fourth round match against Everton, the Toffees' first goal took a lot of luck as it was an extremely fortunate deflection off Steven Pienaar that forced it into the back of the net. The second goal came through a ruck of bodies and there was no way Lonergan could have seen it until the very last second.

The same can be said of many of the goals that have gone into the back of Adam Bogdan's net.

Where people bemoan the Hungarian keeper is in his handling. Bogdan suffers from many of the same issues that plagued Jussi Jaaskelainen and Ali Al-Habsi (yet memories are pretty short when it comes to those two). Until recently (read: the form that Bolton have found), Adam Bogdan has not had a good defense in front of him and as a goalkeeper, it's ridiculously difficult to build confidence like that. As a result, he often would not come off his line to grab a cross from the air or punch it clear. That's changed recently but everyone seems to have forgotten that when he made a save against Barnsley and then lost control upon hitting the ground, leading to the Tykes equalizing before Craig Dawson won it.

For what it's worth, the following is a completely non-scientific comparison of the two goalkeepers: Adam Bogdan is the better shot stopper of the two. He's had to make a number of frankly ridiculous saves over the last few months with the 1-1 draws against Nottingham Forest and Derby County specifically coming to mind. Andy Lonergan is much better at breaking up chances from the wings. He has had to make a few acrobatic stops but nothing along the lines of Bogdan. Both goalkeepers have handling issues and it has become increasingly clear that even though the ball is in their hands, the danger is not clear. This last point was evidenced this past weekend when a late Brighton effort fired right at Lonergan should have been an easy stop but the goalkeeper spilled the ball (but luckily recovered).

Many fans cite Lonergan's performance against Blackburn and specifically the fingertip save he was forced to make on Jordan Rhodes' looping header. While yes, it was a good save, he should never have put himself into that position. Lonergan was way too far off of his line in that situation and had he been a step back, it would have been a routine catch. Instead, it was put behind for a corner and Blackburn had another chance at goal. In the same match, he was saved by the post on two occasions.

Lonergan is easily the more experienced of the two goalkeepers. He's four years Adam Bogdan's senior and has roughly 200 more appearances to his name than the 25-year-old Hungarian. Yet, in the relatively few appearances that Adam Bogdan does have, can anyone really say that he a) hasn't made great progress and b) hasn't shown great promise?