Bolton Wanderers v Oxford United
A 98th minute goal from Jón Daði Böðvarsson gave Bolton Wanderers a first ever win over Burton Albion on Tuesday, completing a late comeback in the process. The Whites had their vulnerability to set pieces exposed by Sam Hughes opener, but relentless pressure from the plethora of forward and midfield options at Ian Evatt’s disposal ultimately shone through. Dion Charles and Elias Kachunga began up top in Bolton 3-5-2 with Böðvarsson and Bakayoko both scoring after being brought on from the bench. Kieran Lee, Aaron Morley and Kyle Dempsey are all excellent technical midfielders who can provide that link to the frontline or out to Bolton’s superb wing-backs, in particular Conor Bradley. The 19-year-old Liverpool loanee has excelled up the right flank for Bolton this season and is a constant threat with his delivery from wide positions. Oladapo Afolayan, who featured at left-wing-back on Tuesday but has also played in forward and attacking midfield positions, has long been recognised for his dribbling ability and developed end product.
Having pulled off two comebacks in the space of four days, the Trotters will be eyeing up another victory this weekend to strengthen their play-off position and commence a possible assault on the automatic promotion places.
It is another yellow opponent at the UBol for Bolton Wanderers. Much like Burton, Oxford United are having a difficult League One season, and will have to go through this weekend without winger Billy Bodin and manager Karl Robinson who are both suspended. Main goalscorer Matty Taylor remains suspended as well, leaving the U’s main attacking threat as Swansea City loanee Kyle Joseph, who plays on the right, versatile forward Marcus Browne, and talismanic midfielder Cameron Brannagan.
Manager Karl Robinson continues to feel the pressure as his Oxford side, who have flirted and played in play-off campaigns in recent League One seasons, struggle to reach the high levels seen prior to 2022-23. Ciaran Brown is a defensive left-back. James Henry is missed in midfield. The partnership of Stuart Findlay and Elliott Moore in defence is not seen as the same level as past partnerships. Gatlin O’Donkor, who started up top in Tuesday’s draw at Portsmouth, only recently turned 18 years old. Oxford are low on numbers and low on overall quality.
If their midweek draw is anything to go by, Oxford could target a result at Bolton by frustrating their opponents. Slowing down the speed of the game could be likely, and it could be a familiar frustration for Bolton fans who experienced it against Burton Albion as well. Whilst the Brewers were able to grab a lead with their set-piece threat however, Oxford United are struggling more with availability and creativity. The U’s may find themselves holding on this Saturday, and that is a lot easier said than done against a Bolton side that have an extra edge to them this season.
Cheltenham Town v Milton Keynes Dons
Cheltenham Town host Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday in aiming to increase their four-point cushion on the relegation zone in the third tier. The Robins have shown promise in flashes so far this season but still feel a way off the side that were trending towards mid table for the majority of last term under Michael Duff.
Wade Elliott has been able to set them up in a well organised defensive shape, of which has kept them in games and helped them recover from a very concerning start to the season. They have seen under 2.5 goals in five of their last seven league outings.
The Dons picked up an enormous win at Charlton Athletic in midweek with Will Grigg and Bradley Johnson finding the net in the second half in South London. Liam Manning is fighting to pull the team away from the bottom and they sat very deep and compact at The Valley, with the vast majority of their opportunities coming from well executed counter attacks.
It was clear the Dons’ confidence has taken a huge hit by the poor start to the season, but with the likes of Johnson and Dean Lewington in the dressing room they should be able to stick together.
Port Vale v Lincoln City
Port Vale have been one of the third tier’s surprise packages so far this season, still riding the wave from their dramatic promotion via the League Two play-offs last term. Darrell Clarke’s men have been picking up points with impressive regularity and are rightful favourites in hosting Lincoln City on Saturday, although are too short at a comfortably odds on price for my money.
The Imps on the other hand have taken seven points from their last three fixtures, in may have been viewed as their toughest consecutive trio of the season heading into it. Winning 1-0 at Ipswich Town before taking a point off of Sheffield Wednesday at Sincil Bank on Saturday, 1-1, and following that up with a 1-0 win at Barnsley. The margin of victory is minimal but considering the level of opposition, Mark Kennedy’s stock continues to rise.
Both sides have scored in five of their last seven and have players in form at the top end of the pitch. Ben House and Jack Diamond have hit the ground running this term, while Ellis Harrison has been a league-wide standout summer pick-up for Vale. Both managers will be confident of getting on the scoresheet.
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