Oxford United 2 Bolton Wanderers 4
Oxford United were beaten by Bolton Wanderers this evening as Phil Parkinson's promotion chasing side won 4-2 at Grenoble Road. Goals from Filipe Morais, Mark Beevers, an own goal from Chey Dunkley and a last-minute goal from Josh Vela earned the visitors a four-point gap in second place in League 1, despite the U's pushing them all the way. In the end, a Kane Hemmings' goal and a Chris Maguire free kick were not quite enough in a thoroughly entertaining night's football.
It took the visitors just four minutes to take the lead. A left-wing cross was headed powerfully down by Gary Madine. Naturally Simon Eastwood made his customary brilliant early save, somehow getting down at the base of his post, but this time his luck ran out when the rebound ran to Morais, who volleyed it high into the roof of the net to make it 1-0.
High on confidence and not afraid to take an extra touch, Bolton look a very good side who will surely be in the Championship next season but United were far from intimidated by their task and started to force the pace when Hall, Maguire and Lundstram all tried their luck from distance.
However, half way through the first half it was 0-2 in similar fashion. Again Eastwood made an outstanding save, touching a Morais free kick on to the bar when the ball seemed to have beaten him. Again the bounce of the ball went Wanderers way, coming back into play and being buried by Beevers from the same spot as the opener.
Now the task was monumental, but never write off this United side. Four minutes from the break and Robbie Hall sent a great ball to the back post where Joe Skarz headed goalwards. This time it was visiting keeper Ben Alnwick who made the good save, pushing the ball on to the bar, but this time Hemmings was the man on the sport to bundle the ball home at the second attempt under pressure from a defender, to give United hope at the break.
They roared into the second half and came close to an equaliser when Marvin Johnson's long-range effort was spilled but Alnwick recovered in time to grasp the ball before Hemmings could reach it. They pushed Bolton back and were playing some nice football but Bolton always had the threat of third goal; Eastwood made a couple of good saves but ultimately he was left helpless when Madine and Dunkley fought for a cross six yards out that came off Dunkley to beat the keeper and make it 1-3.
Game over? Nobody told the Yellows. Fifteen minutes left and they won a free kick on the edge of the box. Step forward Maguire to blast a magnificent strike into the top right corner and set up a grand finale for the Sky cameras. Sub Conor McAleny was bowled over inside the box but was booked for diving rather than being able to admire Maguire's penalty technique, then Nelson saw a looping header drop on to the roof of the net but the ball just would not fall their way inside the box.
At the other end, Chris Long forced Eastwood into two saves at his near post and Morais floated a free kick well over but it was more about game management and seeing the game out for the visitors. When Vela tore forward and punished United for over-committing men forward it made it 4-2 and finally ended home resistance.
United had given it absolutely everything they had and pushed a side on the verge of promotion all the way. Is there time left in the season to close the gap on the teams in the play-offs? Possibly. Are they learning all the time, moving forwards and now a match for any side in this division? Certainly.
Fifty/50 winning number 527861 wins £990.50
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA
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