Cambridge United’s Easter Monday matchup sees them make the journey to Sky Bet League One play-off chasers Bolton Wanderers, with three potentially season-defining points up for grabs at the University of Bolton Stadium...
Looking to capitalise on their recent surge and secure a hat-trick of victories for the first time in 2022/23, Mark Bonner’s men have managed to cut the gap to safety from seven points to three within the space of a week, but will not rest on their laurels as they look to make life difficult for the Trotters.
How to Watch
Just under 450 U’s fans have booked their day out in Greater Manchester, with Monday’s clash kicking off at 3pm.
Please note, tickets are now off sale and this is an all-ticket fixture. No sales will be available on the day.
Formed in 1874, the four-time FA Cup winners and newly-crowned Papa Johns Trophy champions have had a topsy-turvy couple of decades under their belt, from the highs of a UEFA Cup run to sliding to the pits of the fourth tier. Since the appointment of Ian Evatt in July 2020, the Trotters’ faithful have been accustomed to an impressive incline, which has consisted of one promotion, stabilisation and the awakening of a giant. The aim of playing Championship football for the first time since 2019 looms closer.
Tipped by many to improve on last season’s ranking of 9th, the Trotters possessed early signs of progression when they gobbled up eight points from their first four, keeping three clean sheets in the process. Although the formidable Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth Argyle consigned them to consecutive defeats, they responded with four successive, and comprehensive successes. Not suffering any sticky patches in form, they continued to flirt with the top six picture, before a run of just one loss in 12, which included five consecutive wins, put them up to a season-high of 3rd in mid-February. Last time out, a stubborn 0-1 triumph down in Devon against Exeter City terminated a four-game winless streak and, importantly, restored hopes of a potential double-winning season. One of three on 67 points, every point is precious from here on for the hosts, who have lost just three times on home soil.
No need to change a successful formula, Evatt continues to utilise the bodies in a compact 3-4-1-2 set-up. Mainstay goalkeeper James Trafford, who is heavily-rated by parent club Manchester City, looks destined to reach the very top – the 20-year-old is after his 20th league shut out of the season and provides comfort and leadership skills. With influential heartbeat Ricardo Santos and the consistent Eoin Toal out of action for the foreseeable future, fellow Citizen Luke Mbete-Tabu, steady Gethin Jones and George Johnston will deputise. Dominating the flanks are Declan John and exciting prospect Conor Bradley, who hails from Liverpool and is in double figures for goal involvements. Aaron Morley, Josh Sheehan and Michael Williams pull the strings in the middle of the park, using their energy to supply the plethora of attackers. Top goalscorer Dion Charles is on 18 for the season and is usually partnered by experienced head Elias Kachunga and January signing Victor Adeboyejo.
Bolton Wanderers: DLDWW
Cambridge United: DLLWW
Momentum is well and truly piercing through United’s camp after they registered an accomplished 2-1 triumph against Fleetwood Town on Easter Friday.
Staking a claim when it mattered, the U’s felt in cruise control for the majority of the 90 minutes after a sumptuous curler from Jack Lankester minutes into the match gave the Abbey a vibrant buzz. A composed penalty from Sam Smith on the hour mark handed the hosts a comfortably cushion, which they protected despite conceding to Junior Quitirna’s consolation.
Hailing the work rate and negotiation of his men, Bonner stated: “I thought we were excellent, a really good performance and a spirited performance, but also some real good quality in there as well. I think there is a group of players there that understands the situation and they’re playing like they’re desperate to do well… they got the balance right today between physical intensity but quality as well.”
Back-to-back league wins for the first time since early September means that, with seven finals to go, United are more than within a shout of pulling off a mighty escape. Rising to 22nd in the congested table, the gap to bridge reads three points, but an inferior goal difference essentially counts as an extra point. Boasting the best form of the sides around them - and still to play three relegation rivals - if the U’s can build on their impressive foundations in attack and tick the points steadily, they have every chance of taking the survival pursuit to the wire.
Bolton Wanderers Wins: 7
Cambridge United Wins: 4
Down Memory Lane
It was a feisty encounter when the sides last met, with a total of 10 cards being dished out as a spirited United battled to a stalemate at the Abbey Stadium.
Despite enjoying a man advantage for the latter stages of the November encounter after Dempsey received his marching orders, the U’s were unable to capitalise on any of the gilt-edged chances they created and therefore had to settle for the solitary point from the thoroughly improved performance.
Addressing his XI’s desire that day, Bonner said: “That is what you want. Really good atmosphere in the stadium, really good intensity in both teams… I thought it was as entertaining as 0-0s can come and actually, it was quite an open game in both halves. There was a lot of penalty box action and there could have been goals.”
Of their previous eight attempts, United have claimed one victory on away soil, that coming in an October 1981 Division Two tie when they clinched a thrilling 3-4 triumph. With the University of Bolton Stadium opening 16 years later, the travellers look to ensure it’s a case of third time lucky by registering a first-ever win at Monday’s venue – it would certainly be some time to do it.
Referee: David Rock
Assistant Referee: Conor Brown
Assistant Referee: Paul Stonier
Fourth Official: Alan Clayton