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Preview: Bolton Wanderers vs Oxford United

The Whites will be hoping to extend an unbeaten start to their campaign when Karl Robinson’s upwardly mobile side visit BL6

Bolton Wanderers v Oxford United - Sky Bet League One Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

A gritty 1-0 win at Lincoln on Tuesday night, in a game that could’ve gone either way, saw Wanderers record their first win back in League One. It was an open game, not quite in the mould of both their 3-3 draws against the Dons, old and new. Yet Wanderers showed game management and a nous that they lacked in those helter-skelter opening games. They managed to see it over the line, after captain Antoni Sarcevic’s opportunistic strike gave them the lead on 77 minutes.

An calf injury suffered by new signing Amadou Bakayoko means his replacement Lloyd Isgrove is likely to start on Saturday, the Welsh winger playing over 50 minutes and impressing with his non-stop endeavour. Declan John could return after missing the game midweek due to a hip knock, so Liam Gordon will likely continue at left-back, in a back four that actually has two consecutive shut-out’s to its name after they kept Barnsley out in the Carabao Cup.

Oxford come into this encounter unbeaten also, with narrow home wins over Charlton and Crewe following up the opening day draw at Cambridge and progress over Burton on penalties in the Carabao.

Ryan Williams has been filling in at right-back, with regular Sam Long out injured and the Australian summer signing from Portsmouth has been earning rave reviews for his performances there. He had to leave the field early in the second half against Crewe, and is a doubt for this one, alongside Billy Bodin and West Ham loanee Nathan Holland, who only lasted 16 minutes in that game. Anthony Forde should be fit to slot in for Williams if he doesn’t make it.

These two sides only met the once in the truncated 2019/20 campaign, in a 0-0 draw at the UniBol. Just four players, all from Oxford, who started that game are likely to reprise their role here, an indication of how much has changed in the intervening period, especially at Bolton.

Opposition one to watch:

Cameron Brannagan

The ex-Liverpool academy graduate has overcome a potentially career-ending eye injury to start to regain the form that had Championship clubs monitoring him during the 2019/20 season. The midfield schemer is the heartbeat of this U’s side and the double pivot of himself and the unselfish Alex Gorrin is the bedrock on which Robinson has built this side around.

The 25 year-old has been a mainstay of the side since returning in mid-January, with his vision, metronomic quality and leadership proving invaluable to the Yellows, as they sit pretty on seven points from nine.

Prediction:

I see another entertaining affair with both sides finding the net. I’m often quite pessimistic about our chances, even in a run of just three defeats in 26 games! However, I’m plumping for Wanderers to do the business here, with a Ricardo Santos header and Elias Kachunga from the bench getting the winner, after Mark Sykes equalises for Oxford.