Oxford United 0-1 Bolton Wanderers

  • April 15, 2023 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL: http://b-ac.es/c866d

Bolton ensured play-off qualification remained in their own hands with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Oxford United.

Heading into the weekend fixtures behind Peterborough United in 6th place - ahead of Derby County on goal difference alone - Wanderers received a pre-match boost at the Kassam Stadium as news filtered through that Posh had been beaten at Cambridge United.

An early strike from Dion Charles, a 20th of the campaign which saw him become the first Trotters player to reach that figure since Michael Ricketts (24) in 2000/01, eased any pressure, but it was far from plain sailing for the Whites, who held on despite a number of scares.

The three points moved them up to 5th in the League One table, amid further news filtering through that Derby had conceded a late penalty at Bristol Rovers as they were made to settle for a 1-1 draw - leaving Bolton two points inside the top-six with a game in hand.

Ian Evatt made five changes to the side held at home by Cambridge United on Easter Monday as MJ Williams, Dan Nlundulu, Aaron Morley, Kyle Dempsey and Charles all came into the side.

George Thomason, Shola Shoretire, Cameron Jerome and Victor Adeboyejo all dropped to the substitutes' bench, while Luke Mbete missed out through injury along with Kieran Lee, who also missed out on the squad.

With defensive options depleted even further over the course of the week, George Johnston shifted over to the left-hand side of a back-three, allowing Williams to slot into a central role.

It took just seven minutes for Wanderers to break the deadlock in what had been billed as a 'must-win' game - Bradley combining with Dempsey and advancing into the box, where his square ball was parried by goalkeeper Simon Eastwood, allowing Charles to slide in his 20th of the campaign.

It wasn't until after the half-hour that the next moment of note occurred, with yellow cards aplenty as both teams began to show lapses in concentation.

First, Oxford's Josh Murphy went into the book for a foul on Bradley, moments before James Trafford was somewhat fortunate to remain on the field as he was beaten to the ball by Kyle Joseph, who took a tumble just outside the box.

The home supporters were appealing frantically for a red card but referee Sebastian Stockbridge opted for yellow, perhaps believing the tracking run of Williams could have denied a goalscoring opportunity.

Trafford, with his tail between his legs, made a save from the resulting free-kick, before causing yet more frustration to the United followers when he made a routine stop from former Wanderers loanee Brandon Fleming two minutes before the break.

Joseph continued to cause problems for the Trotters backline as the half drew to a close, with Williams also being cautioned for a foul on the forward, but it was the visitors who took a slender advantage into the interval - leading 1-0.

Wanderers were unchanged as the players returned for the second period, although the hosts did make one substitution as Tyler Goodrham was introduced in place of the yellow-carded Murphy.

Oxford continued to dominate in the early stages following the restart, with Ciaron Brown forcing Trafford to push away a stinging drive from distance with little over a minute played.

Joseph was inches away from converting Sam Long's low cross on 54 minutes, shortly before yet another visiting player entered the book - this time Johnston for a foul on Marcus Browne.

Josh Sheehan was next to enter the book, followed shortly thereafter by substitute Elias Kachunga.

The next opening arrived with 69 minutes on the clock as Adeboyejo and Dempsey combined just inside the United box, with the latter twisting and turning away from his marker before firing narrowly over Eastwood's crossbar.

The U's pushed everything forward in the latter stages as they looked to test the resolve of the Trotters' backline, who somehow succeeded in keeping their opponents at bay to register a club-record 25th clean sheet of the campaign.

Being responsible for 24 of those, goalkeeper Trafford also made a piece of individual history - surpassing the 23 clean sheets kept by both David Felgate and Keith Branagan in 1987/88 and 1994/95, respectively.

Victory for Bolton moves them up into 5th place in the League One table, ahead of Tuesday's trip to Burton Albion.

Oxford United: Eastwood, Long (Anderson 85), Moore, Findlay, Brown, McGuane, Brannagan, Murphy (Goodrham 45), Browne (Wildschut 72), Fleming (O'Donkor 57), Joseph
Subs Not Used: McGinty, Smith, Smyth
Booked: Murphy, O'Donkor

Bolton Wanderers: Trafford, Johnston, M Williams, Jones, John, Morley (Thomason 79), Sheehan (Shoretire 79), Bradley, Dempsey, Nlundulu (Kachunga 57), Charles (Adeboyejo 65)
Subs Not Used: Dixon, R Williams, Jerome
Booked: Trafford, M Williams, Johnston, Sheehan, Kachunga
Goals: Charles 7

Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge
Attendance: 9,506

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
1 Portsmouth 19 42
2 Bolton Wanderers 18 39
3 Oxford United 18 36
4 Stevenage 20 36
5 Peterborough United 19 35
View Full Standings >>


Who is Bolton's 2022/23 Player of the Year?
25.9% Conor Bradley
22.3% James Trafford
20.09% Dion Charles
10.05% Kyle Dempsey
6.82% Aaron Morley
6.45% Ricardo Almeida Santos
3.5% George Johnston
3.32% Eoin Toal
1.01% Kieran Lee
0.55% Gethin Jones