Bruce buoyed by defence

Wigan boss pleased to stop leaking goals

Bruce: Pleased with progress

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Steve Bruce feels his Wigan Athletic players deserve 'a pat on the back' for tightening up in defence.

Only Sunderland have breached the Wigan back-line in the last five games as the Latics inch towards Premier League survival.

Bruce's side kept leaders Arsenal at bay on Sunday, with Chris Kirkland producing a superb save in the opening minute to deny Emmanuel Adebayor.

Kirkland's performances of late have drawn praise from his manager, who is also keen to commend the efforts of his entire team.

Brave as a lion

"He has produced save after save and he is as brave as a lion. He was excellent," said Bruce.

"You need your goalkeeper to play well against Arsenal, and he made two great saves. He was drafted into the England squad, and you can see why.

"We used to be leaking goals here a few months ago. But now we've had four clean sheets out of the last five games, which is far better, and the players deserve a pat on the back."

Bruce has been delighted with his team's form in recent weeks after acknowledging he feared for the club's top-flight future upon his initial return to the JJB Stadium.

He added: "We played Bolton three months ago - and when I was driving home after they beat us 4-1 I was thinking, 'We are in danger of being cast adrift if we don't do something quickly'.

"The response has been terrific. The effort they have put in is the reason we have turned it around."