Oxford 2-4 Bolton Eight Things: hapless stoppers and clinical Trotters

Morais rams home the opener – bbc.co.uk

Despite a nervy second half, clinical finishing saw Bolton Wanderers to a 4-2 victory at Oxford United – but what have we learnt from the game?

Eastwood’s early work in vain

Oxford goalkeeper Simon Eastwood made two good saves in the first 23 minutes: the first from Gary Madine’s header, the second from Filipe Morais’ free-kick. Sadly for him, they were both in vain. Defenders Curtis Nelson and Chey Dunkley were slow to react and the impressive Morais fired home the loose ball on four minutes, before Beevers headed in another rebounded effort 19 later.

Oxford’s lack of movement

Marvin Johnson was the home side’s most inventive player in the first 40 minutes and made two driving runs, but suffered from a lack of movement in front of him. His teammates were slow to loose balls and appeared reluctant to engage in a physical contest with a more powerful Bolton side.

Organized Trotters

The visitors had a hardworking midfield trio of Jay Spearing, Darren Pratley and Josh Vela, the latter given licence to press further up the pitch. He was ably assisted by two industrious strikers in Gary Madine and Adam Le Fondre, though the latter was forced off through injury on 35 minutes. Six later however, Rob Hall sent a looping ball to the back post where Joe Skarz headed goalwards. Once again great work from a goalkeeper – this time visiting Ben Alnwick – was foiled at the rebound, Kane Hemmings bundling the ball home at the second attempt.

Different game

That goal came out of nothing but it changed the dynamics of the contest. Pratley and Vela started to get drawn into deep, wide areas, with Bolton pushed back by the increasingly adventurous runs of Phil Edwards. Chris Maguire grew more involved and had a penalty shout while Johnson forced Alnwick into action, saving at the second attempt. Bolton had fleeting breakaway moments through Chris Long, who was at times given too much space on the left channel by Edwards and Nelson, but Oxford were the dominant side.

“We’re up all night for Chey D-… bedtime, actually”.

Having conceded the free-kick that led to Bolton’s second goal and been dominated for much of the first half, it is fair to say Chey Dunkley has had better days in a yellow shirt. After a throw in from the right was flicked across goal, Dunkley tussled for the ball with Madine and he inadvertently knocked it beyond Eastwood.

McAleny looks bright

Everton loanee Conor McAleny came off the bench, with departing Joe Skarz’s left-back place taken by Johnson, who hit a superb long-range strike onto the bar. McAleny had one or two efforts that forced a corner, he played through Hemmings who was smothered by Alnwick and had a penalty appeal turned down in a bright 26-minute display.

Late goals

Maguire, famed for his set piece quality, delivered once again with a fine 75th minute free-kick that went perfectly into the top right-hand corner. Sadly, Oxford’s late efforts were thwarted by another Bolton breakaway, Madine playing through Vela who slotted into the far corner to clinch the victory.

What it means

We have seen the best and worst sides of both Oxford tonight. In the first 40 minutes, they looked a team afraid to compete physically, but after that, we saw a team that would at times create openings at will. Equally, this was not the perfect performance from Bolton, who gave their opponents more time on the ball than they would have liked, especially in the second half. However, they defended their box well and were clinical in front of goal, securing a win that puts them four points clear in the race for the Championship.