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Michael Dawson believes the team are displaying the confidence, maturity and spirit from which a continued improvement can be achieved this season.

Michael Dawson believes the team are displaying the confidence, maturity and spirit from which a continued improvement can be achieved this season.

We currently sit fifth in the Premiership standings following just a single defeat in 11 league outings with a trip to seventh place Bolton - level on 20 points - tonight. The gap between ourselves and the pack has closed over the last couple of weeks due to a sharing of the spoils with Manchester United and Arsenal.

Not reaping full points value from these encounters would not normally be much of a talking point, but times change and the central defender definitely considers the draws as points dropped.

"It just shows how far we've come in that we were disappointed with a point in each game - we want to win these games," insisted the England under-21 international.

"Could we have won them? Should we have won them? The answer to both is yes," he added, before attempting to explain his positive perspective.

"I think it is everything, from the coaching staff to the players, team spirit, the training and the fact we are growing in confidence as a team."

The Northallerton-born player joined in January from Nottingham Forest and made his debut in mid-April against Liverpool at Anfield, going on to form a formidable partnership with Ledley King at the heart of our defence.

With Forest now operating outside the top two divisions, Michael admits he has paused and taken stock of how his life has changed over the last nine months.

"I think I have, if I'm honest. At the end of last season I got to play and it was nice to go away in the summer having played a few games. I came with an injury that is behind me now and I just want to look forward.

"I have sat down and thought about it all. When I went away the summer before I didn't think I would be playing in the Premiership.

I played five games at the end of last season and have come back and played against all the top teams

"It is brilliant, but you have got to keep going, keep learning and become a better player. You have got to be able to go out there and express yourself and show everybody what you can do."

With that in mind, Michael has no better example than the player alongside him - one he can't speak highly enough of.

"Ledley is unbelievable and I just keep saying the same. He is superb to play alongside and the first time I watched him I couldn't believe how good he is - he has everything.

"You name something he hasn't got to me - he is a top class player.

"We are a pairing who can play well together. You have to blend as a team but you have to connect with the player alongside more than others - like Mido and Jermain up front.

"It is about getting an understanding and hopefully it is coming along well."

The pairing will be tested again when we travel to the Reebok Stadium and Michael agrees they will have to be at their powerful best to contain the threat of Sam Allardyce's side.

"They have had a little bit of criticism over the last year but, credit to them, they are doing well and they are at the top end of the table. That is where everybody wants to be.

"It will be a different game from the last two and we know we will have to stand up and be strong. We will have to be strong all over the park."