THEY say you are only as good as your last game – and in that case, Andy Lonergan’s grip on the goalkeeper’s spot should be iron clad.
Thanks to his midweek heroics, Wanderers can look forward to a glamour tie at Chelsea in the Capital One Cup third round.
But while Lonergan was in irrepressible form against Crewe on Tuesday night, he will head to former club Leeds United tomorrow knowing he has work to do before being able to call himself number one.
Adam Bogdan’s head injury at Brighton last weekend is likely to mean another start for the 30-year-old at Elland Road, where he played for a single season before his arrival at Bolton in the summer of 2012.
Lonergan took full advantage of his team-mate’s injury problems over the summer, cementing himself as first choice in the pre-season friendlies and then getting the nod on the opening day against Watford.
His reign would last just 90 minutes. Wanderers failed to get going at Vicarage Road and Lonergan paid with his place in the next game at home to Nottingham Forest.
It had been a quick change of heart from Dougie Freedman and many wondered whether it would signal a quick exit for the former Preston North End man.
Bogdan’s unfortunate collision in the Brighton game offered Lonergan another chance. And while his performance at the Amex was a mixed bag – a magnificent double save in the first half underlining his shot-stopping prowess but an unfortunate flap moments later forcing Jay Spearing to make a goal-line clearance – his cup appearance in midweek was almost faultless.
Freedman was the first to lead the praise.
“You can say that Andy is here to make those kind of saves but I thought his overall performance was excellent in the end,” he said.
“I’m pleased for him. He knows he could have done better in certain situations this season – not entire games because his performances over the course of a game has been fine – but in certain instances.
“He had a wonderful pre-season and against Crewe he showed a really good character. He made difficult saves look simple at times.”
Bogdan suffered concussion at Brighton as well as a big head wound, meaning he is unlikely to be risked at Leeds but Freedman potentially faces a difficult decision when the Championship programme reconvenes after the international break about whether to put the Hungary international back between the posts.
Lonergan’s job this weekend is to make that choice as tough as he can.
He will have some extra incentive to perform at his former club bearing in mind the circumstances of his departure two years ago.
Signed by Simon Grayson at Leeds after an aborted move to Everton, Lonergan was first choice, when fit, for virtually the whole campaign.
When Neil Warnock replaced Grayson in February 2012, one of the manager’s first moves was to bring in trusted lieutenant Paddy Kenny – which spelled an abrupt end for Lonergan at Leeds.
A £1million move to Wanderers followed but Lonergan’s time at the club has been equally stop-start.
Speculation continues to surround Bogdan going into the final few days of the transfer window and with both senior keepers’ contracts ticking down, it seems rather unlikely that both will see out the whole season with the Whites.
What that means for Lonergan may well depend whether he can strike while the iron is hot and keep out Leeds United at Elland Road tomorrow.