CRAIG Davies has taken the knocks, now he deserves the plaudits.

That’s the opinion of Wanderers boss Neil Lennon, who was delighted to see the striker finish last week – arguably the best of his Bolton career – with a fine goal in the derby win over Wigan Athletic.

The Wales international went from loan outcast to first team regular this season but has stepped up another level since Lennon’s arrival, putting in a man of the match display in the win against Cardiff City a few nights earlier.

But the manager insists Davies is still improving, and has the bruises to prove it.

“Craig has been magnificent,” he said. “He takes the hits and I keep saying to the players that it’s not easy up there with six-foot four centre-halves hanging all over you, going through the back of you, especially when the ball’s up there near his Adam’s apple.

“But he does it with aplomb and he’s getting better all the time. He deserved his goal and I think it was the best one of the game so I’m delighted for him.”

Chung-Yong Lee’s improvement has also been well documented, and the Korean also got on the score-sheet in the derby with the very first penalty of his Wanderers career.

Lennon has already had his issues with penalty takers, earning himself a red card in his first game at Birmingham whilst trying to stop Davies taking the responsibility at St Andrew’s.

The Northern Irishman was more than happy to see Chung-Yong pick up the ball on Friday night, however, even if he still felt nerves after going three up.

“The way Chungy is playing, he’s full of confidence, and he’s probably the most experienced player we’ve got. You certainly need it in those situations,” he said.

“He put it away under considerable pressure but even with 25 minutes to go I was stood there thinking ‘hmmm, let’s hope we see this out’.

“I was disappointed to concede because, to be fair, Callum McManaman is on one leg, we were sleeping, ball-watching, but apart from that Matt Mills was also outstanding from start to finish, he had a monumental game.”

Lennon was also purring over the pass from Chung-Yong which created the first goal for youngster Max Clayton and set up an incredible three-goal burst in 10 minutes after half time.

“The first goal was all-crucial,” he said. “If that goes to Wigan then we’ve got a mountain to climb but when you look at how it was created, Chung-Yong Lee, the weight of the pass and the vision – I didn’t even see Max there, so how he picked him out I’ll never know. The finish was fantastic.

“The second goal was the goal of the game, Liam (Feeney) hits it on the turn and Craig, who had instigated the move, followed it in with a fantastic header.

“That was a springboard to go on and play with some enthusiasm and quality.

“I think the penalty might have been tough to take from Uwe Rosler’s point of view but the defender did have his hands on him (Mills).”

Lennon also lifted the lid on discussions in the dressing room at half time which inspired such a strong start to the second half.

“I was disappointed with the start we made – I think Andy Lonergan touched the ball more than anyone else because we weren’t looking forward to start with,” he said.

“Once we settled and got Chungy, Craig and the midfield boys into the game it was much better. I said to the two wide lads Max (Clayton) and Liam (Feeney) that they needed to calm down a little bit because they were trying too hard.

“Wigan had given a real go at it but we felt at half time that maybe they’d run out of steam – maybe that’s the best they had.

“If we could find that extra five to 10 per cent then it was our game and thankfully that’s how it panned out.”

Friday’s win meant Wanderers had scored three home goals in successive games for the first time since 1998.

Colin Todd’s side, then playing in Division One, were the last to accomplish that feat, beating Birmingham City (3-1) and Huddersfield Town (3-0) either side of Hull City in the League Cup (3-1).