WANDERERS’ wide men Dennis Politic and Thibauld Verlinden will have to improve the defensive side of their game to reach maximum potential, warns Keith Hill.

The young pair got fans on the edge of their seat in Tuesday night’s stalemate with Oxford United with their trickery on the ball – but they are far from the finished article, according to their manager.

Politic has burst on to the scene this season after a loan spell with Salford City and has scored against Rochdale and Bradford in the cup competitions.

Verlinden, on loan from Stoke City until January, grabbed his first professional goal in the 6-1 defeat at Rotherham United.

Both look integral to Hill’s plan to play attacking football but the Bolton boss is excited by the prospect of improving their overall contribution.

“Their function for the team is equally important as what they are doing with the ball,” he told The Bolton News. ”They have to defend, they have to track, intercept and travel up the pitch.

“As soon as Dennis gets that Keith Hill and David Flitcroft mentality into his game and gets a harder League One body then the football world is his oyster.

“Him and Thibaud could, and probably will be, very good players. We are trying to guide them but they have to do a service for the whole team.”

Hill said he was paying little attention to the scoreboard during the heavy defeat at Rotherham United on Saturday, focussing instead on implementing the new style of play.

He accepts, however, that some of his players had their professional pride harmed by shipping six goals, which made their response against Oxford all the more satisfying.

“It was definitely a confidence booster for them,” he said. “We have got to be cleaner, though, and it could have been better at times.

“They will be guided by us in training, by the midfielders and the strikers in front of them, and I think they deserved their clean sheet. Saturday’s result can hurt you, mentally.

“They embraced what we asked them to do, me and Flicker, and put in what was a very positive defensive performance.

“If anyone needs a reward it’s the goalkeeper. He has been super exposed, I had a great chat with him, and I think we’ve got a clean, competent, confident performance from him tonight. And I think the players in front of him tonight were magnificent.”

Wanderers have now pushed past the 8,000 mark on season ticket sales but will again be selling seats on an individual basis for this weekend’s home game against Sunderland.

The visitors have sold out their 4,500 allocation and Hill hopes those who watched the Oxford game will have come away wanting more.

“I hope so,” he said. “I just like football and I quite enjoyed the first half, especially.

“I liked the fact we were stalwarts in the second half. Sometimes when you are tired you have to retreat slightly but still hit your marks. We did that well in the second half.

“I think the intelligence is out there on the pitch. We expect players to lead in the same manner we do from the side of the pitch. We are trying to guide them, and we’ll always try to support them.

“I think if you are a supporter watching us you can see we’re trying to transform the previous identity we were playing in.

“They have been magnificent. I know it hurts when you get beat but I am trying to ignore the scoreboard, even tonight, I’m just trying to build processes, improve what we’re doing in possession.

“Hopefully with the players we have got we’ll become hard, game ready, a little bit of fear will drop into the opponents. I don’t like the word ‘hope’ because we plan meticulously, and we’ll continue to do that.”