Cambridge United salvaged what could be a crucial point against Bolton Wanderers on Monday as Sam Smith’s last minute header made it 1-1 at the death…
The U’s performance belief the respective positions of the two sides, as United pushed Wanderers all the way and got what they deserved deep into added time.
After failing to score from an encouraging first half though, it was always likely that the home team would push hard for a winning goal after the break, and so it proved as Declan John put the hosts ahead in the 67th minute.
United continued to push for a route back into the game though and finally earned their reward with the deftest of headers from Sam Smith to turn in Lankester free-kick from the edge of the box.
The result makes it seven points from the last nine available ahead of Saturday’s Cambridgeshire Derby.
Mark Bonner reverted to a five-at-the-back formation and recalled Michael Morrison and Steve Seddon into the team, in place of Harrison Dunk and Jack Lankester.
Full of confidence after the last two winning performances, United started the game well and more than matched their lofty hosts during the early exchanges. But for a better final pass or decision on a handful of occasions, the U’s could have found themselves in position to take the lead inside the opening 20 minutes.
On the other end of things, whilst Bolton enjoyed the majority of the ball, they didn’t offer much in terms of goalmouth action with United frustrating the home side in-front of a near capacity crowd.
In fact, it was the U’s who were the more threatening throughout the first half. Wanderers were ponderous on the ball in their own half and the press from the boys in blue was causing problems for Bolton.
One such example came when Knibbs stole the ball off Jones in trademark fashion on the left hand side before being closed down just before he was ready to pick out a pass. Moments later, an identical situation opened up for Seddon, who found Brophy inside the 12 yard box but he couldn’t divert the ball towards goal.
Bolton had their first sight of goal on 35 minutes when Declan John was played in down the left. Rather than pick out a teammate in a more central position, he opted to go for goal and was denied by the feet of Mitov.
As the groans of the home supporters grew more and more audible, it was the U’s who continued to look dangerous. A perfect pass from Brophy over the top for Smith found the striker in an advanced position, who laid the ball off for his striker partner, Knibbs, but after taking a touch around the outside to create the shooting chance, he dragged his effort wide.
A strong half from United who went into the break with the scores level, although perhaps it could have been even better given the way the contest played out.
Bolton came out the traps quick to begin the second half and but for some brilliant defending from Seddon to throw his head in the way of Bolton’s Bradley, the home team could have taken the lead after just a couple of minutes.
The threat on the counter was still there from United though, and but for a better pass from Brophy to Knibbs on 53 minutes, a clear sight of goal was there for the taking.
Smith came the width of a football away from sending the away end into raptures before the hour mark, as he curled his free-kick from 25 yards out just wide of the near post.
Ian Evatt responded by bringing on a triple substitution as his side upped the ante to go in search of a winning goal. On 67 minutes, they finally got it as Declan John smashed in from close range after Mitov made a brilliant initial save to deny Johnston, but right into the path of John.
Mark Bonner brought on a triple threat of his own as Dunk, Lankester and Tracey came onto the pitch in place of Seddon, Brophy and Knibbs.
Lankester came close to making an immediate impact, as he tried to find Smith behind the defence, but alert defending saw the pass cut-out before it could reach the striker.
As United pushed forward in desperate search of an equaliser, the game opened up and Bolton could have sealed the deal in the closing minutes. First, Charles rattled the woodwork after a rapid counter up the pitch before chaos ensued in the goal mouth with a number of blocked shots and rebounds that eventually came to nothing.
The U’s final roll of the dice came with five minutes or normal time remaining, as Okenabirhie and Ironside came on R. Bennett and Digby, and the switch almost immediately paid off, as Okenabirhie won the ball back inside the area, before crossing for Ironside, who headed agonizingly wide of the post.
Six minutes added time were awarded and when Okenabirhie was sent tumbling on the edge of the box, Lankester stepped up to send in a wonderful delivery which Smith met perfectly, to send the travelling fans wild high up in the stands.
United will aim to continue their positive recent momentum at the weekend when they host Peterborough, in the first league game between the two sides at the Abbey in over 20 years.