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Bolton Wanderers: one of the best defences in Europe

From the state of our defending over the last few years you'd have been barking mad to think such a thing was possible, but such is the magic of Parky

Millwall v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One
Phil Parkinson has plenty to smile about having transformed Bolton Wanderers' defence this season
Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

A solid defence is not something you could have levelled at Bolton Wanderers for many years. Over the last few seasons our defending has ranged from the ridiculous and the shambolic to the downright laughable.

Perhaps the low point of our defensive vulnerabilities recently was the utterly atrocious 6-0 mauling at the hands of Bristol City back on 19th March. That was the standout result in a dreadful season as Wanderers leaked 81 goals in relegation to League One, having conceded 60 and 65 goals in the previous two seasons in the Championship - including a 7-1 battering at Reading in January 2014.

But now, after just six months in charge, manager Phil Parkinson has transformed that pathetic backline into the ninth strongest defence in the whole of Europe.

Wanderers have conceded just 12 goals in 20 league games, a ratio of 0.6 goals conceded per game, and have played more matches than any other side in the top ten European defences.

This list, as compiled by stats website Betstatz, is headed up by dominators of Greek football Olympiakos, who have conceded just four goals in ten league games - half that played by Bolton, Porto (5 goals in 12 matches), PSV Eindhoven (7 goals in 15 matches), Scottish Championship side Hibernian (8 goals in 15 matches) and Italian Serie B side Benevento (9 goals in 16 matches).

The only other English side with a better defensive record than Bolton this season is Brighton & Hove Albion, who have conceded just 11 goals in 19 matches. While the third best defence in the country is Conference Premier side Tranmere, who have an impressive record of just 16 goals allowed in 24 matches.

The Premier League's finest defences lag well behind, with Tottenham Hostpur having leaked ten times in 14 games (0.71 goals per game) and Chelsea conceding 11 in 14 games (0.79 goals per game). Our nearest competitor in League One is leaders Scunthorpe, who have conceded 17 times in 20 matches at 0.85 goals per game.

So what's changed at Bolton? Well, there's Parkinson's far more reserved, safety first approach. You only have to look at our last two league games for proof of this. In the 1-0 victories over Coventry City and Northampton Town we dominated the first half, probably should have scored more and went in a goal ahead at the break, then promptly sat back and defended what we had. It may not be pretty, nor is it exciting, but isn't it refreshing to not think we're going to leak goals every time a side attacks.

The other obvious factor here is the timely arrival of Mark Baevers nee Beevers. The big centre-half has been an absolute colossus at the heart of the Wanderers defence all season. I've seen him play live a few times and I can't remember a single time where an attacker has got past Beevers. The former Millwall man has formed an impressive duo with David Wheater, and an even more impenetrable partnership with Derik Osede in Wheater's absence.

It's nice to finally be able to trust a Bolton Wanderers defence and, with the team's attacking prowess becoming increasingly potent thanks to the impressive Zach Clough, Josh Vela and Sammy Ameobi, it almost feels like we can take joy in supporting this club again.