Bolton Wanderers defender Kevin McNaughton ready for scrap against Sheffield Wednesday
WANDERERS are at battle stations for what Kevin McNaughton believes could be their most demanding game of the season so far.
Confidence may be up after victory at Birmingham finally got Dougie Freedman’s side moving in the right direction but there was an acute sense around Euxton this week that this afternoon’s result against Sheffield Wednesday could be a definitive one for the Whites.
Win, and momentum continues into another home encounter with Ipswich next weekend, but defeat would threaten to undo a lot of the good work done in the last few weeks steadying the ship.
That sentiment is certainly echoed by McNaughton, who may be in the penultimate game of his loan spell from Cardiff City, but who has bought in wholesale to the bullish spirit currently running through Freedman’s new look side.
It is not yet known whether the experienced full-back will extend his stay towards Christmas and for now McNaughton is concentrating solely on stopping Dave Jones’s Owls – themselves searching for a morale-boosting first win of the season.
“You don’t dwell on wins and you don’t dwell on defeats in this league because in a couple of weeks you can find yourself stumbling again,” he warned.
“It has been a good international break and it’s always better to go into one on the back of a good result. But it’s back down to business now.
“I’m sure it will be tin helmet stuff against Wednesday. It will be tough and physical and we are prepared.
“We know it won’t be easy against them because they are in a very similar situation.”
Though this afternoon’s Reebok clash will only be his third in Wanderers’ colours, McNaughton admits he already feels at home at Bolton.
After failing to get a look-in at Premier League Cardiff, where he remains the club’s longest-serving player, he arrived to lend an air of authority to a back four that had to that point looked in disarray.
“It’s a great set up here and I think things are done in a very similar way to Cardiff,” he reflected on his first three weeks in the North West. “Preparation and training are the same so it has been very easy to adjust.
“I didn’t really see much of the boys playing earlier in the season but from what I have seen since I have been here they have played well.
“I think things are moving in the right direction now. Hopefully that continues.”
But McNaughton isn’t out to collect headlines and quickly played down his own part in Wanderers’ recent revival.
New centre-back partnership Matt Mills and Tim Ream, says the Scot, have been just as influential in the team starting to climb the table.
“The two centre-halves have been brilliant in the last couple of games and you wouldn’t know they have just been put together,” he said.
“It looks like they have been playing for a while. It always helps when your centre-backs are playing well because it makes my life as a full-back so much easier.
“It has worked well in the last few games.”