Knight hails Wanderers' defensive togetherness
ZAT Knight reckons a more harmonious vibe among the Wanderers back four has been a big factor in the club’s recent defensive improvement.
Positive reinforcement is the name of the game now in a defence that has kept two clean sheets in the last three games, and that has provided the bedrock to a seven-game unbeaten run.
Knight has been a mainstay since the arrival of Dougie Freedman in October and he believes the improved camaraderie among the players is one of the chief reasons that a play-off push is now a possibility heading into tomorrow’s game against Brighton.
“Everyone feels comfortable at the moment,” he told The Bolton News. “We are encouraging each other more in the back four.
“If someone does something good – whether it’s me, Dawson, Sam (Ricketts) or Marcos (Alonso), then they get encouragement. Whether you make a mistake or not, you keep encouraging.
“It doesn’t matter what you do, everyone will make mistakes. But there is no point getting on each other’s backs about it. You are nervous then and you feel under pressure to head it, or get rid of the ball, it has that knock-on effect. If you talk the right way about it then you take it on board.”
The mood in general around Euxton and the Reebok is a far cry from earlier on in the campaign when it looked as if a brush with relegation was more likely than a push for promotion.
The outcome of tomorrow’s match should have a major bearing on whether the latter is possible but, as someone who refused to stop beating the play-off drum, even in the darker days, Knight could be forgiven for feeling vindicated.
“A few people were writing us off a few weeks ago but I stayed positive,” he said.” I have said all along that until it’s not mathematically possible, it isn’t over.
“We were probably the only team in the league that hadn’t had a run. Everyone else had put two or three games together and now that we have done it, we just need to carry it on.
“Let’s give it a push and see what happens. We have got two huge games before the international break and if things go our way then we could be in the play-off positions by the time we go away for a week.”
One of the week’s big talking points has been the goalscoring return of Chris Eagles – someone who went from zero to hero in the eyes of some fans, who had celebrated his substitution just a few weeks ago during a game against his former club Burnley.
The midfielder hit back at his critics with a last-gasp winner against Blackburn Rovers in midweek to keep the play-off bandwagon rolling – a goal that Knight reckons will do wonders for his confidence.
“That goal will be massive for him,” he said. “I felt sorry for him a few weeks ago when the crowd cheered him to come off. But he has shut their mouths by scoring a good goal.
“That’s what football is all about. It’s about opinions. But Chris has come on and saved the game against Blackburn, so maybe some of them have changed now.
“Even the best players in the world can’t play well every single game. They all have off-days.
“Maybe Chris hasn’t been at his best and the players have got on his back but he went out there and showed them. For five or 10 minutes he showed what a great player he is.”