SIMON GRAYSON hailed keeper Alex Smithies after he bounced back from a below-par performance against Leeds to shine in Town’s draw with Bolton.
The 22-year-old made a string of saves, including one from Chris Eagles’ penalty, to limit the Lancastrians to two goals at the John Smith’s.
“Alex was especially disappointed with the first goal he conceded against Leeds, but that didn’t concern me because he has been fantastic since I arrived at the club,” said the boss.
“He showed in this game that he is a top, top goalkeeper with a couple of great saves to keep us in the game.
“I never thought about dropping him, that would have been a very harsh decision.
“He has won us a lot more points than he has lost, and he knows he has got to produce because he has got Ian Bennett pushing him all the way.”
Town, 15th in the Championship, earned their point through James Vaughan’s 87th-minute equaliser on his first start in nine games after a thigh injury.
And Grayson added: “He gives us a presence in attack and I am delighted he managed to last the 90 minutes.
“He showed what he is capable of in this match.
“We were bold in attack with Lee Novak and Simon Church up there alongside him and at times we caused them a few problems.
“James’s finish to get us back into the game was superb and then he almost won it for us right at the end.”
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Popular Alan Lee came off the bench to set up Vaughan’s goal, and Grayson explained: “When people come off the bench they have to make an impression.
“I said to Alan before the game that he was unlucky not to be starting because he was one of our best players against Leeds.
“He understood my decision to change the starting side and it was brilliant that he came on and had a hand in the goal.”
On the game as a whole, Grayson said: “If you paid money to come and watch this one I don’t think you were short-changed.
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“It swung backwards and forwards and I kicked every ball and went through every emotion.
“They came out of the traps quicker than us and passed it better.
“But after the first five minutes we got a grip, retained the ball, created some decent opportunities and should have maybe got another goal in the first half when Lee Novak hit the bar.
“Bolton are a top, top team at the wrong end of the division.
“They have Premier League experience and showed that in the second half, but we competed strongly and matched them .”