Bolton delivered a benchmark performance for manager Neil Lennon on Tuesday night and the Northern Irishman implored his players not to slide back into their inconsistent ways.
Wanderers ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over Cardiff at Macron Stadium thanks to Liam Feeney’s brace in the opening 36 minutes and a second-half strike from Matt Mills.
It was the second straight home triumph since Lennon was appointed last month as the former Celtic manager continued to have an uplifting effect with a third victory in his first five games.
However, results elsewhere kept Bolton in the bottom three of the Sky Bet Championship ahead of the crunch derby clash with Wigan this Friday and Lennon wants his players to build on the most impressive performance of his short tenure.
“It’s the best we’ve played since I’ve been here against a very good side with a good manager,” he said.
“There was a good intensity and tempo to our play and real quality in the final third. We finished the game strongly which pleased me as well, so our fitness levels are improving.
“I think I’ve got some good footballers here and they’ve shown that tonight. Now, that’s a benchmark. We can’t keep going win, loss, win, loss, win and then lose on Friday. We’ve set a good standard now.
“After Norwich setting the bar for us, we’ve beaten a team that were in the Premier League last year so the players know they can certainly compete at that level.”
Lennon was livid after Friday’s defeat at Carrow Road and skipper Jay Spearing and last season’s top scorer Jermaine Beckford were both demoted to the bench in a strong statement from the boss.
His faith in those selected was rewarded early on as Feeney, who had not scored since August 2013, delivered a quick brace to give the hosts an upper hand which they would never lose.
“The second one pleased me the most because I’ve been trying to get him in at the far post when we are attacking down the left,” Lennon said.
“He’s a player who has improved under us. We left him out for a couple of games but he’s trained very, very well the last couple of weeks and we had no hesitation in putting him back in. I’m pleased for him and delighted with his contribution.”
The defeat continued Cardiff’s miserable away run, with the Bluebirds having not tasted success in the league on their travels since April, and only once in the previous 24 outings on the road.
While that worrying trend has carried on under the new regime, manager Russell Slade admits the poor performance came out of the blue.
When asked whether he could have foreseen such a result, Slade said: “No, not at all.
“Sometimes you look at your players in training and you think maybe they’re not looking confident but there’s been a real confidence about the changing room and preparation has gone as well as ever.
“However, I just felt in that first period we had a little bit of a soft underbelly and you can’t do that. And also you can’t switch the game on and off like a tap.
“You can’t decide to start after 45 minutes, you’ve got to start from the very first minute.”