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Bolton boss praises Birmingham City loanee after Stoke shut-out

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karlypants

karlypants
Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse
Phil Parkinson has praised Jonathan Grounds’ “tremendous” return to the Wanderers first team against Stoke City.

Saturday’s goalless draw against the Potters meant Bolton escaped the relegation zone for the first time in nine weeks.

Grounds had not started a game since October 6 and had come in for criticism for his performances earlier this season after signing on loan from Birmingham City.

But when Andy Taylor was ruled out with a groin injury, the 30-year-old bounced back with a commanding display to keep Stoke’s multi-million pound strike force at bay.

“It was a game with a lot of plusses for us but Groundsy came in and I thought he was absolutely tremendous,” said Parkinson after the final whistle.

“We played him when he first came in and he was under-cooked, physically. When we went to Stoke Thomas Ince gave him a tough time. So it was a big ask for him to come in and play against the same team but I thought he was one of our best players.

“His use of the ball was good and Ince got brought off in the end, which is testament to Jonathan’s performance.”

Grounds was one of two changes to the line-up, with Josh Vela also brought in to replace Gary O’Neil.

Starting only his second game since the start of September the homegrown midfielder was given a standing ovation when he was substituted in the final few minutes of the game.

“You have to give Vels a special mention,” Parkinson added. “And I am pleased he got a terrific reception when he came off because his endeavour typified the performance.

“It was a good honest shift. We changed the shape slightly and players adapted to it quickly.”

O’Neil, whose goal had sealed the Boxing Day victory over Rotherham United, could be back in action for the New Year’s Day trip to Hull City.

“He got a tight groin and we had it scanned yesterday and there’s no serious muscle damage,” Parkinson explained. “Gary, in fairness, played at Brentford then Rotherham and hasn’t played for a while. To go three games was always going to be a tough call but it’s not a serious injury and we expect him to be very close on Tuesday at Hull.”

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