PHIL Parkinson is desperate to see a clean-sheet mentality return to Wanderers.

After setting defensive records in League One last season, the Whites have proved an easier nut to crack in the Championship – conceding more goals than anyone else in the division.

Only three opponents – Birmingham, Preston and Cardiff – have failed to score against Bolton this season and two goals shipped at Middlesbrough on Boxing Day took the tally to 43 in 24 games.

Parkinson is insistent improvement can be made and took encouragement from what he saw in the first-half performance at the Riverside.

“We have to work so hard to keep clean sheets but they’re crucial for our survival,” he told The Bolton News.

“It’s frustrating because if we had maintained the standards we’d set in the first half against Boro then I think we would have got something from the game. The crowd were getting edgy with the home players. We didn’t do that and we’ve got to get better, we have got to have the belief we can get clean sheets.

“We showed we can be disciplined and organised against Cardiff but one or two moments against Boro have been costly.”

Thankfully, defeat on Teesside did not leave Wanderers any further from safety as relegation rivals Burton and Sunderland also failed to pick up points.

Parkinson is now considering changes on Saturday as he takes his side to Sheffield United for the final game of 2017 and feels his dressing room will be in the right frame of mind to mount a response.

“We’ve come off the back of a good win against Cardiff, so I can hardly stand here and say the lads are demoralised,” he said.

“It was going to be tough with Tony (Pulis) coming in and a bit of a feel-good factor going around their players but I thought in the first half we were excellent, the only period we were disappointed with was the start of the second half. It’s an element of us, our concentration levels, but also two very good strikers.

“The fixtures at this time of year are relentless and we need to have a good look at the freshness of players in the squad.

“We felt Saturday-Tuesday, under normal circumstances the lads would be ready to go again. We made one change (Craig Noone for Will Buckley) but I think we’ll have to think carefully going into Sheffield United and Hull.”