Maybe they’re right. Maybe it is too early to be looking at league tables. On paper, Saturday’s game between Cambridge (Pos. 1 P7, W5, D1, L1, F18, A4) and Bolton (Pos. 20 P7, W1, D2, L4, F6, A11) should have been easy to call. The leagues top scorers, Europe’s top scorer and the best defence against fallen giants in woeful form. Home win guaranteed right?
Unfortunately we all know football doesn’t work like that, and this game showed it. However crap their recent form has been, Bolton are still going to be up there at the end of the season such is the quality of their expensively assembled squad, last seasons top scorer Eoin Doyle just one of twenty odd new signings to the Lancashire club in the summer.
The U’s lined up more or less as expected, with only Wes Hoolahan making way for loanee Idris El Mizouni to make his first league start this season. Pretty much a like for like change, Idris starting in front of a powerful midfield twosome of The Digger and Hiram Boateng with the familiar wide men Harrison Dunk and Luke Hannant out on the wings.
The game kicked off in blowy conditions and this led to an initially scrappy game, with neither team really creating much in the way of meaningful chances, although Bolton came close on a couple of occasions. It was clear their young goalkeeper was not enjoying the conditions, but the U’s failed to make it count and both teams went in at the break tied 0-0.
As the second half started it was Bolton who were quickest out the blocks, trying to replicate England’s famed third goal against Holland in Euro 96 they took one too many passes in the box and it was Brockbank who put the ball in the net, albeit from an offside position.
By this point it was clear to all that Mullin was isolated up top, attracting close attention from Bolton’s defence nothing was falling for him. El Mizouni, unusually unimpressive today, made way with Ironside replacing him and five minutes later Boateng came off for Adam May to add some attacking threat to the side.
This opened Bolton up a bit, and the U’s began to assert themselves on the game a bit and on 72 a Jack Iredale cross was met by Ironside who pressured goalkeeper Crellin into punching the ball into his own net.
United couldn’t hold on though, and Bolton stepped up a gear to exert real pressure on a United defence that was doing it’s best to hold firm, but when Sarcevic was given too much space by Harry Darling there was only going to be one outcome, and Bolton levelled. They continued to push for a winner with only an impressive Dimi Mitov managing to secure the point for the U’s.
Another tough test awaits us at Walsall on Tuesday, and then things will start to become a little clearer as to whether or not we’re genuine contenders. If you’d have asked us at the start of the season if we’d have taken a point against Bolton we’d have probably said yes, and they look like an impressive team who will challenge, rather than the side their early season form has suggested. Whether manager Ian Evatt is still there at the end of the season remains to be seen, his very public digging out of Crellin perhaps a sign of some discontent in their large squad.
Man of the Match: It was a difficult game, not aided by the wind and the U’s struggled to stamp their authority on the match, but Jack Iredale (not for the first time this season) was excellent. Exciting going forward but strong in defence he looks a real gem of a player and we’re looking forward to seeing more of him as the season goes on.
Soundtrack of the Match: Electronic – Getting Away With It
United: Mitov, Knoyle, Taylor, Darling, Iredale, Hannant, Digby, Boateng (May), Dunk, El Mizouni (Ironside), Mullin