Date: 25th November 2008 at 12:13pm
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Things are quieter than of late at Planet Reebok. The seething mobs outside the stadium have laid down their pitchforks and with Bolton sitting in mid-table, calls for Gary Megson to be dealt with have subsided for now.

Not that the manager will ever be popular. If he were a contestant on TV show I`m a Celebrity get me out of here, Megson would definitely be the last person in the jungle, but only because Bolton fans had done a deal with the producers to leave him there permanently. Claims that the supporters make ‘mountains out of molehills` or that criticism of him is like ‘water off a ducks back` do the Ginger One no favours. He is unlikely to ever be carried shoulder high unless it`s to throw him off the bridge over Burnden Way.

The stats are in Megson`s favour though. Bolton have won three out of the last four games and are six points better off than they were at this stage last season. Saturday`s victory at Middlesbrough was the third away from home, more than they managed over the whole of the previous campaign and the manner of it was impressive at times.

Not that all the problems have been dealt with. The defence, solid for most of the time, is still let down by lapses in concentration, there is a tendency to lose possession in vital areas, leaving the side open to counter attacks and too often the midfield sits back and allows the attacking team space.

However, the improvements in passing and movement are noticeable. The Whites are starting to look like a team instead of a collection of individuals. The quality of the second and third goals at the Riverside speaks for itself, but the first came from a free kick given after Fabrice Muamba had sent Johan Elmander away with a raking pass, leaving Emmanuel Pogatetz no choice but to hack the Swedish striker down.

Against Manchester City, both goals were scored on the break, the first from a five man move and the other involving four players. Such football makes a lie of the ‘you know what to expect from Bolton` line that is trotted out by opposition managers and pundits.

The crucial question to ask is whether Bolton can sustain that progress. For that reason, Saturday`s game at Sunderland is more significant than it would otherwise be. If the Whites can reproduce the best parts of their performance at Middlesbrough, then not only will they emerge from the Stadium of Light with three points, but it will be evidence that Megson and his team are making significant strides forward. It that proves to be the case then it`s time to cease hostilities and acknowledge that the man in charge is worthy of the job that he`s been given.

 

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