Cambridge United were made to put in a grinding shift to battle out a 1-1 draw against Bolton Wanderers at the Abbey Stadium.
In a tight, wind-effected affair, Joe Ironside forced a mistake Trotters keeper Billy Crellin to give the U’s the lead in the second-half. That was soon cancelled out by Antoni Sarcevic though, with Mark Bonner’s rear-guard holding firm for a point and stretching their unbeaten at home this season.
Buoyed by an impressive 3-1 success over Port Vale on Tuesday night, Mark Bonner made just the solitary change for the U’s. Loanee Idris El Mizouni came in place of Wes Hoolahan, who was rested from the matchday squad.
Harry Brockbank carved out the first opportunity of the game for the Trotters on the 11th minute, his speculative effort from a wide angle eventually curling clear of Dimitar Mitov’s far post.
The U’s were awarded with a free kick from just over 20 yards moments later. El Mizouni had the accuracy but could not generate enough power to cause Billy Crellin any problems. And United were perhaps quite fortunate not to be behind on the 16th minute, when Eoin Doyle expertly teed up Sarcevic who drilled just wide from 12 yards.
Luke Hannant and Hiram Boateng both registered attempts for the U’s, but neither were on target as a physical Bolton defence continued to deny the hosts a real sniff at goal. An exquisite cross from Jack Iredale fell right to Harrison Dunk on the 39th minute, but the winger could not connect with it on the volley as it zipped right through the dangerzone.
Hannant engineered a superb passage of play on 42, marauding forward and playing a clever one-two before unleashing a vicious shot which was inches wide of Crellin’s post, and that proved to be as close as United came before half time.
Minutes into the second half, Bolton had the ball in the back of the net after a slick piece of play. Alister Crawford, at the heart of the attack, danced into the penalty area until the ball found its way to an unmarked Brockbank who fired in. However, his celebrations were cut short by the linesman who promptly flagged for offside.
The U’s were under the cosh as the second half progressed, with the three man defence of Bolton continuing to frustrate Paul Mullin. Aware of this, Bonner added a physical element to his attacking ranks in Joe Ironside on the brink of the hour mark. Adam May entered the field of play too.
U’s full-back Kyle Knoyle skipped past several Bolton defenders on the 68th minute, before being fouled just outside the box. The resulting free kick from Mullin went under the wall and but just wide.
United’s growing pressure paid off on the 72nd minute. A looping cross from Iredale, which was struck by Ironside along the way, fell to goalkeeper Crellin who punched into his own net to give the hosts the lead.
The lively Kioso created a good opportunity for Bolton on 76, cutting the ball to substitute Arthur Gnahoua in the box who couldn’t quite garner up an attempt at goal.
The sides were back to level terms on the 81st minute when an tidy passing move was wrapped up by Antoni Sarcevic, who fired into the bottom corner from outside of the box.
As the game entered its dying stages, Nathan Delfouneso forced Mitov into a superb reaction save as the Trotters looked to nick all three points. It proved acrucial stop as United withstood a plethora of late pressure.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Knoyle, Taylor, Darling, Iredale, Hannant, Digby, Boateng (May, 64 mins), Dunk, El Mizouni (Ironside, 58 mins), Mullin
Bolton Wanderers: Crellin, Baptiste, Santos, Delaney, Kioso, Sarcevic, Tutte, Brockbank (Gordon, 71) Crawford, Delfouneso, Doyle (Gnahoua, 49 mins)