Boyce: We are stronger

Emmerson Boyce believes Latics are better equipped to fight off relegation than they were a year ago.

The centre-half played a major role in keeping the club in the Premier League last season, and his return to the heart of the defence in recent weeks has coincided with an upturn in results.

Four clean sheets in five games, with eight points collected in that run, has seen Steve Bruce's side pull clear of the drop zone.

And a win over local rivals Bolton at the JJB Stadium on Sunday would give them more breathing space.

Boyce told the Evening Post: "I think as a team we are stronger and certainly harder to play against than we were 12 months ago.

"Last season we found things going against us more – we seemed too fragile when we went a goal behind. The feeling now is if we don't manage to score, we are capable of keeping a clean sheet to at least get a draw.

"That's the major difference. The whole team is more

confident of shutting the

opposition out, as we have shown in the last few weeks.

"We just need to start

scoring a few more goals, and if we do that, we'll be all right."

Latics are actually four points worse off than they were at the same stage last season, but the team of 2006/07 went on to collect only six more points from their last nine games as they survived in dramatic style on the final day.

But at the moment they are playing with much more confidence now Bruce has stamped his mark.

Boyce is not surprisingly delighted to be in the team and playing well after a frustrating spell on the bench earlier in Bruce's reign.

The 28-year-old said: "I just get on with my job. When the manager calls me along to play in a position, I will do it.

"I always give 100%. I base my game on consistency and I will continue to do my best for the team to make sure we stay up."

Boyce's form alongside Paul Scharner has allowed Bruce to loan centre-back Andreas Granqvist to Swedish club Helsingborgs for the rest of the season.

With Titus Bramble and Erik Hagen providing further cover at the back, Granqvist rejoined his former club yesterday, in time for the new season in Sweden.

But it doesn't spell the end of his stay at Wigan, with the 22-year-old merely being given a chance to play regular first-team football and hopefully book himself a place in Sweden's Euro 2008 squad.

Bruce said: "This is by no means the end of the road for Andreas at this club.

"He's a good young player with plenty of potential.

"However, with the European Championships coming in the summer, he needs first-team action to have a chance of getting in the Sweden squad.

"The way our defence is performing at the moment, and with the competition for places we have here, Andreas would in all

probability not be getting what he needs.

"We felt it was the fairest option for him to allow this move."

Championship strugglers Coventry and Leicester had also enquired about a loan deal, but Granqvist chose a move home.

He joined Latics from Helsingsborgs for 750,000 last summer having spent the second half of last season on loan at the JJB Stadium.