Bolton Wanderers fans feared the worst when in-form goalkeeper Andy Lonergan picked up an injury in late January, joining fellow 'keeper Adam Bogdan on the sidelines. Manager Neil Lennon's solution was to pilfer local minnows Manchester United's excess troops, bringing in Ben Amos on a month-long loan deal.
Few of us expected much from the 24-year-old loanee who had only played a handful of Championship matches with Hull back in 2012/13 and only mustered one Premier League appearance for Manchester United - in which he did keep a clean sheet against Stoke City. He had amassed decent experience in the League Cup and made a few experiences in League One, as well as one appearance in the Champions League against Valencia, but had never established himself in a side.
But when Amos was thrown into the thick of it by Lennon, he duly seized his opportunity. His first task for his new club was picking the ball out of the back of the net after Lonergan injured himself in taking out Dexter Blackstock to concede a penalty, then conceded again to Chris Burke. But this proved to be the only occasion on which Amos conceded more than one goal for Wanderers.
Amos impressed on his full debut in the 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough, then kept a clean sheet on his home debut against Brighton. He enjoyed another clean sheet at home to Millwall and was the overwhelming man of the match at Wigan, where he was cruelly denied a clean sheet by some typically bad last minute defending.
Amos put in a series of impressive performances for Bolton, pulling off some great saves and saving the blushes of some poor defending in front of him. So with his Manchester United contract coming to an end in the summer and with both Bogdan and Lonergan's deals at the Macron both also up at the same time, who should Bolton's top two 'keepers be next season?
This is a tough choice between three goalkeepers that have performed well at times, so here's a look at each contender.
Bogdan has been with Wanderers since 2007 and made 99 appearances for the club, but he's still yet to definitively stamp his authority on the number one jersey. I never feel fully confident with him between the sticks, probably as a result of some shady performances when we were in the Premier League, and his best performance this season was in the FA Cup clash atLiverpool. Last season he was usurped by Lonergan, and he's never really been first choice this campaign. I think it's time for Bogdan to move on and seek pastures new.
Lonners was in fantastic form this season until his untimely injury against Forest. I think he's been our top goalkeeper this season making some world class saves throughout the campaign, including keeping five straight clean sheets ahead of the Christmas period. Indeed, Lennon was quick to lavish praise on the goalkeeper in the build-up to the Boxing Day clash with Blackburn:
"Lonners has been outstanding. He has produced some really top class saves and in a great place, long may it continue.
"You need your goalkeeper to make big saves at big moments and Andy is certainly doing that. I haven't seen a better goalkeeper in this division, or at least one who makes saves as consistently as he has done. He must be worth six, eight, then points just on those big moments where you need one-on-one saves or shot stopping."
I think these comments suggest Lennon clearly rates Lonners and will favour him over Bogdan. I believe his form this season means he deserves to be given a new contract for next season.
Amos' performances as an emergency loanee saw him become our first choice goalkeeper ahead of Bogdan and Lonergan on their returns from injury. He's still only 24, which is young in goalkeeping terms, and would give Lonners a good run for his money as number two to his elder rival. Given Amos will likely demand lower wages than both his rivals, I think we should snap up Amos on a free transfer and allow Bogdan to leave the club - if he wants to join us that is.