Neil Lennon: I have never lost faith in Bolton stars
Neil Lennon claims he has never doubted that his Bolton Wanderers team can win their relegation battle, despite going 17 matches without a victory.
Indeed, the former Northern Ireland international's belief that the Trotters will still be playing Championship football next season has only increased after their derby win over Blackburn Rovers on Monday ended a winless run that stretched back to mid-September.
It was the kind of late Christmas present that Lennon had been hoping for, but after suffering a 4-0 defeat at Rotherham United on Boxing Day, there seemed little prospect of a positive result against Rovers, who had only conceded one goal in their previous four matches.
Gary Madine's strike gave Bolton their first victory in 18 games to raise hopes of staving off the drop into League One.
They are, however, still four points away from safety in the Championship table, but Lennon believes he will be successful in the battle against relegation - and always has.
"The win gives me belief, although I've never wavered from that," said Lennon.
"There's a quiet satisfaction among the players at the moment, they are tired, but I've told them they have to build on it in the coming games.
"It is a small step but for the first time in a long while the fans are going home with a smile on their face. We are still fighting and that's the attitude and the motivation that the players have got to have."
Lennon has endured difficult circumstances and uncertainty at every turn this season. Bolton remain rock bottom of the Championship despite Monday's win and many of the seats at the Macron Stadium lie empty.
Chairman Phil Gartside has taken ill, owner Eddie Davies has put the club up for sale, the players haven't been paid their full wages and the Inland Revenue has issued a winding up order over an unpaid tax bill.
No firm buyers have come forward, even though Davies is prepared to write off the £185m he has invested in the club.
They have only won twice in the league this season, but Lennon retains the support of both the fans and the board and he is glad to have finally been able to give them something back.
"There was a massive roar at the end of the game and the fans stayed behind to celebrate a bit, which was nice," said Lennon.
"They have deserved it. They come out every week in their thousands and there have been too many times they have gone home disappointed or frustrated.
"I'm relieved, I'm pleased for everyone associated with the club - my backroom team, the players, the board, because it hasn't been easy the last couple of months."