MARK Beevers’ return to fitness could give a timely boost to Phil Parkinson’s quest for defensive stability at Wanderers.

The centre-half has returned to training following an Achilles problem and could now reunite with David Wheater at the heart of the back four in tonight’s game at Birmingham City.

Parkinson feels his side has looked more vulnerable in recent weeks after a shift in midfield balance, which has included the introduction of youngster Luca Connell.

The teenager will miss the trip to St Andrew’s with a calf injury but Parkinson has suggested he could look to shore up his team over the next few weeks regardless as he heads towards consecutive games against three of the current top eight in the Championship.

A call for a more defence-minded approach has not been met especially well by the paying punters, who have bemoaned the lack of goals scored this season. Wanderers are currently on-course to beat the all-time low for a 46-game campaign, set just last season.

Yet if a desperately disappointing run is to be halted, Parkinson has to start somewhere. And his most recent statements suggest he will build from the back.

The Beevers-Wheater partnership was established in League One and continued to be first choice for the majority of the manager’s first two seasons.

Summer arrivals Marc Wilson and Jack Hobbs gave Parkinson more options and as he looked to improve the use of the ball from the back, even club captain Wheater has spent time watching on from the bench.

Beevers had played six straight games before picking up an injury after the FA Cup exit at Bristol City and missing the last three.

Alarming statistics are not hard to find at Bolton this season – but there is a relatively reassuring correlation between Wheater and Beevers playing alongside each other which could affect Parkinson’s thinking in the Midlands.

When Wheater and Beevers have started, Wanderers have won five, drawn four and lost five of their 14 games.

Without them both in the side, the record is a meagre one win, four draws and 15 defeats.

Injuries and unavailability could also shape the side tonight, especially on the left side of defence where Andy Taylor is still struggling to shake off a calf problem and Jonathan Grounds is unable to play against his parent club.

If Wheater, Beevers and Marc Wilson are used as a back three, wing-back options include Craig Noone and Lloyd Dyer.

Parkinson admits the 2-1 defeat against Preston left the training ground at Lostock a rather sombre place on Monday but he remains confident the players can answer their critics by claiming a result tonight.

“As you’d expect it isn’t great when you lose but it’s my job, along with the rest of the staff, to pick everybody up and make sure we give the team belief we can win this game,” he said.

“I am confident we can get something from it but it’s got to be a very good performance to do it. Whenever we have won games there is always the same look about the players when they are in the dressing room, they are absolutely out on their feet. We need that again at Birmingham.

"I haven't really changed my view on the Preston performance - we just weren't competitive enough.

“We have to highlight the areas we didn’t do so well at the weekend but most importantly now we have to rectify them.

"Both teams played at the weekend, both teams will have bumps and bruises but it will be all about who rolls their sleeves up."

Two of the players who have helped Birmingham mount an unlikely play-off challenge could very easily have been playing in Bolton Wanderers colours tonight.

Goalkeeper Lee Camp had trained at Lostock in the summer as his contract with Cardiff City was about to be cancelled. It was only when the Blues came up with a two-year contract offer that he decided against a move to the North West.

Gary Gardner came even closer to a move, linking-up for talks with Bolton at their pre-season base in Scotland. Unfortunately, his stay coincided with a pay dispute between Ken Anderson and the squad, leaving the Aston Villa man to look elsewhere.