Oxford United 2-4 Bolton Wanderers

  • March 21, 2017 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL: http://b-ac.es/8f09a

Bolton boosted their hopes of automatic promotion, as a 4-2 victory at Oxford United put them four points clear of Fleetwood Town.

Having started the month in 4th place, Wanderers have racked up four successive victories in the space of just 11 days and have given themselves a safety net as they bid to return to the Championship at the first time of asking.

They went ahead inside four minutes at the Kassam Stadium as Filipe Morais continued his recent purple patch with the opening goal, while Mark Beevers doubled the advantage midway through the first half.

Kane Hemmings reduced the deficit three minutes before the break, but Wanderers restored their two-goal cushion on the hour when Cheyenne Dunkley headed into his own net whilst under pressure from Gary Madine.

Chris Maguire set up a thrilling finale by curling home an outstanding free-kick with 15 minutes to play, pegging the visitors back to 3-2, but Josh Vela sealed victory for the Trotters in the final minute of stoppage time, as he became the first Bolton player to score 10 goals in a single season since Chris Eagles in 2012/13.

On the back of a 2-1 victory over Northampton Town on Saturday, Wanderers boss Phil Parkinson made just one change to his starting line-up, as Jay Spearing returned to partner Darren Pratley in central midfield - with Derik Osede dropping to the substitutes' bench.

The visitors have become known for their ability to strike early in recent weeks and it took them just four minutes to open the scoring, as Morais maintained his recent form by breaking the deadlock.

After receiving possession from Pratley, Vela's cross to the far post picked out Madine. His header produced a fine reaction stop from Simon Eastwood, but Morais was on hand to smash the rebound into the roof of the net.

Oxford responded well, with Chris Maguire seeing a shot deflect behind, moments before John Lundstram forced Ben Alnwick into a routine save with a curling effort from distance.

Bolton doubled their lead midway through the half, however, as Beevers found the net for the third time in his last four outings.

After Adam Le Fondre had won a free-kick 25 yards from goal, Morais' effort was tipped on to the crossbar by Eastwood. But, just as with the opener, a Wanderers player was the quickest to react to the rebound, with Beevers slotting home from close range to make it 2-0 to the visitors.

Despite receiving treatment for a head injury sustained moments prior to that goal, Le Fondre's evening soon came to an end with early signs indicating he had suffered a concussion. Taking no chances, Parkinson withdrew the on-loan forward - bringing Chris Long on in his place.

Oxford had enjoyed the lion's share of the possession inside the opening 45 minutes without managing to seriously threaten Alnwick in the Bolton goal, but that changed three minutes before the break as the hosts pulled one back.

Rob Hall, lining up against his former club, whipped a cross in from the right-hand side. Joe Skarz' header was tipped onto the bar by Alnwick and cleared off the line by David Wheater, but Hemmings raced in to poke home from close range to reduce the deficit going into the break.

There were no changes to either side as the players emerged for the start of the second period, which began with Alnwick rescuing Wanderers by sticking out an arm to keep out a dangerous cross from Philip Edwards.

Alnwick was called into action again on 50 minutes, getting down to keep out Marvin Johnson's long-range strike at the second attempt, while Long forced Eastwood into a reaction save at the other end as he looked to sneak one in at the near post.

Bolton came close to extending their lead from the following corner, but Madine's volley was cleared off the line after Eastwood had spilled the initial cross into the box, moments before Eastwood once again got down well to keep out a powerful drive from Long.

The visitors got the third goal their pressure merited on the hour, though, as a long-throw from Morais was flicked on by Beevers and headed into his own net by Dunkley, as he looked to shrug off the attention of Madine.

After a brief lull in play, Oxford suddenly brought the game back to life as they came within a matter of inches of getting back into the game.

Wanderers could only half-clear from a corner and the ball found its way to Johnson. Despite being 40 yards from goal, he tried his luck and would have found the top corner, had it not been for the fingertips of Alnwick, who diverted the ball onto the post.

Alnwick was beaten five minutes later, however, after Vela conceded a free-kick just outside his own box. Maguire took responsibility for the resulting set-piece and curled an unstoppable effort into the top corner via the inside of the post.

With the pressure back on, Bolton responded brightly, with Long once again seeing neat-post strike kept out by Eastwood, before Dorian Dervite saw a header cleared off the line as he rose to meet a corner from Morais.

Four minutes of time was added for stoppages at the end of the game, which proved to be just enough for Wanderers to strike again and seal the victory.

Having taken control of possession just inside the Oxford half, Madine played an advancing Vela clean through on goal. With the angle narrowing, he drilled a shot into the bottom corner to make it 4-2 with his 10th goal of the campaign.

The final whistle was met with joy from the 575 travelling supporters, who were able to celebrate their side consolidating 2nd place in the League One table - as they moved to within six points of the league leaders with eight games to play.

Wanderers return to action on Saturday, when they hit the road once again. This time, they come up against struggling Shrewsbury Town at Greenhous Meadow.

Oxford United: Eastwood, Edwards, Dunkley, Nelson, Skarz (McAleny 64), Hall (Martinez 76), Lundstram (Rothwell 83), Ruffels, Johnson, Maguire, Hemmings
Subs Not Used: Stevens, Ribeiro, Sercombe, Raglan
Booked: McAleny
Goals: Hemmings 42, Maguire 75

Bolton Wanderers: Alnwick, Beevers, Wheater, Dervite, A Taylor, Spearing (Osede 77), Pratley (Karacan 61), Morais, Vela, Le Fondre (Long 35), Madine
Subs Not Used: Howard, Moxey, Clayton, Henry
Booked: Beevers
Goals: Morais 4, Beevers 23, Dunkley 60(og), Vela 90+4

Referee: Ross Joyce
Attendance: 7,146

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Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
19 Tranmere Rovers 7 5
20 Accrington Stanley 7 5
21 AFC Wimbledon 8 3
22 Southend United 7 1
23 Bolton Wanderers 6 -11
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Poll

Who is Bolton's 2018/19 Player of the Year?
34.62% Gary O'Neil
19.38% David Wheater
18.92% Pawel Olkowski
9.27% Joe Williams
5.33% Jason Lowe
4.13% Sammy Ameobi
2.85% Josh Magennis
2.75% Mark Beevers
1.19% Jack Hobbs
1.01% Ben Alnwick
0.28% Andrew Taylor
0.28% Craig Noone