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MARC ILES' BIG-MATCH VERDICT: Bolton 2-1 Cambridge

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Nat Lofthouse
Nat Lofthouse

Time has marched on but the pain of that devastating day in Bolton Wanderers' history is still keenly felt by the club.

On the 75th anniversary of the Burnden Park disaster manager Ian Evatt was determined to honour the memory of those supporters who lost their lives the best way he knew how - with a good performance and the points.

His players did enough to take their unbeaten run into double figures with a win, although the ending was much more nervy than it should have been - certainly based on the evidence of the first half.

It took Wanderers 38 minutes to make the breakthrough courtesy of Eoin Doyle, but it had been coming. A second, for Antoni Sarcevic, was warranted for their unwavering endeavours in the finest half of football served up this season.

If the second period had entirely matched the first, Wanderers would have been out of sight. But it proved hard to deliver the same amount of dynamism, even with the introduction of fresh legs at various intervals after the break.

They had to weather an unexpected storm too when, out of nowhere, Cambridge pulled a goal back.

Matt Gilks had appeared to have Kyle Knoyle's shot from distance covered. But the ball somehow slipped through his legs and spilled over the line.

But Wanderers demonstrated the defensive side of their game and dug in to close the gap on second-placed Cambridge and the automatic promotion spots.

The evening began in suitably sombre fashion with a minute's silence for the Burnden Park disaster victims.

Cambridge United captain Greg Taylor joined Wanderers skipper Sarcevic in laying wreaths at the side of the pitch as the names of the 33 who went to a football match and tragically never returned home were displayed around the ground before kick-off.

Evatt had spoken of the heartbreak that the club still feels about that devastating day in its history, and how he wanted to honour the memory of the victims with a result that would further fuel their promotion push and make a real statement of intent against one of the division's high-flyers.

Wanderers started in exactly that manner, popping the ball about with precision and purpose and the patience needed to mount incisive attacks.

Keeping League Two's top scorer, Paul Mullin, at arm's length was also a priority, and they succeeded in doing that.

Indeed, the only save that Gilks had to make was from Shilow Tracey, under pressure from Alex Baptiste, in the first half.

Wanderers, with Nathan Delfouneso replacing Lloyd Isgrove the only change to the line-up at Bradford, otherwise dominated possession and chances.

Declan John was particularly effective on the left, and when Doyle met his magnificent delivery with a volley it was a shame that Callum Burton got in the way. The cross alone deserved a goal.

Two chances in quick succession followed - the first in open play from the impressive Kieran Lee, after John and Sarcevic combined well in the build-up, and then John with a free kick. Both whistled over the bar.

Sarcevic, John and Lee continued to pose problems with their movement on and off the ball, Dapo Afolayan was effervescent, and when Gethin Jones got in on the act too his delivery for Doyle was well controlled by the striker and dispatched across the keeper into the bottom left corner.

Despite closing in on half-time Wanderers were not prepared to sit on their one-goal advantage and pushed again.

Cambridge thought they had done enough in a packed penalty box to snuff out two close-range chances but Sarcevic picked up a loose ball and drilled it past Burton.

A third goal would have put the game beyond the U's. But Bolton put so much into the first half they found it hard to match, with Cambridge also finding another gear as they tried to find their way back into the game in the second half.

Wanderers continued to have their chances though and substitute Marcus Maddison, a second half replacement for Sarcevic, was a menace.

Lee brought a fingertip save from Burton too.

But as the third goal eluded them it made for an anxious last 10 minutes after Cambridge were gifted a goal.

Wanderers defended diligently from thereon with Maddison striking the base of the post at the other end.

Eventually, Wanderers celebrated victory - a deserved one despite the finale - and remembered the 33.

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