A first half Shilow Tracey goal saw Wanderers fall to a narrow defeat at the hands of fellow newly-promoted side, Cambridge United at the Abbey Stadium.
Cambridge started the game on the front foot and Joel Dixon had to be alert enough to pedal backward towards his goal to push George Williams’ over hit cross from the right-hand side over the bar just over a minute into the game.
Just a couple of minutes later, Antoni Sarcevic was in the right place at the right time to clear the ball off the line after Paul Digby had connected with James Brophy’s corner to divert the ball towards the far corner of the goal.
The first Bolton opportunity came via Dapo Afolayan just before the ten-minute mark. Surging down the left and into the box, he sat United defender Lloyd Jones on his backside before lashing a shot narrowly over the bar from a relatively tight angle.
The game sprung into life, and after Shilow Tracey saw a shot fizz over the bar after running down the right with menace at Declan John, United had a goal ruled out for offside moments after Joe Ironside had latched onto Brophy’s cross to turn the ball home.
The home side’s frustration wasn’t long-lived though as Tracey did find the net just seconds later. Picked out with a low centre from the right, he was afforded too much time and space to slot a first-time shot into the bottom corner, leaving Dixon with no chance.
Wanderers never really got going in the first half despite having a lot of the ball, and matters could have got worse had Ironside latched onto Williams’ dangerous low cross into the box on the half-hour mark.
Always a threat inside the penalty area, Eoin Doyle almost found himself with a tap in as the first half came closer to an end, but Dimitar Mitov just got to the ball ahead of him after Lloyd Isgrove had headed John’s cross down and into a dangerous area inside the six-yard box.
Wanderers started the second half quite well and were denied by the woodwork with Josh Sheehan seeing an effort come back off the post after latching onto John’s cross from the left-hand side following some good play from Afolayan.
MJ Williams was the next to try his luck with a shot at goal, but after finding himself in possession of the ball in a pocket of space inside the box, his curling effort just didn’t quite curl enough and went a yard or so wide of the target.
Just before the hour mark, Afolayan was presented with a great opportunity to level things up after latching onto Sheehan’s raking pass into the box, but his low shot was kept out by the legs of Mitov to keep the home side ahead.
Sheehan then took matters into his own hands moments later but saw a shot from distance go wide of the target. Wanderers going in search of an equaliser allowed Cambridge to attack with limited possession of the ball, and Wes Hoolahan received a pass from Tracey before seeing his deflected shot held onto by Dixon.
George Williams headed the ball wide of the target for Cambridge from Brophy’s corner before Liam O’Neil saw a shot from distance held by Dixon after substitute Alex Baptiste had only headed Brophy’s cross half-clear into the midfielder’s path.
Elias Kachunga had come off the bench as a substitute with 25 minutes to go, and his dangerous low cross was just the right kind of delivery that was required, but the final touch was missing to at the very least force Mitov into action.
Kachunga was a problem for Cambridge in the latter stages of the game with a bright cameo, and after being fouled just outside the box, Sheehan’s delivery was cleared out as far as Afolayan who dragged a volley wide of the mark.
It wasn’t to be for Wanderers who fell to their first league defeat of the season at the hands of a hardworking Cambridge side. Despite Ian Evatt’s men monopolising possession, they just lacked the cutting edge required in the final third to be able to punish the home side.
Cambridge United: Mitov, Williams, Jones, Masterson, Iredale, Tracey (Knibbs 78), Digby, O’Neil, Brophy (Dunk 90+1), Hoolahan, Ironside (Smith 70).
Unused Subs: Mannion, Lankester, May, Weir.
Goals: Tracey (16)
Bolton Wanderers: Dixon, Jones (Kachunga 65), Almeida Santos, Johnston (Baptiste 75), John, Williams (Delfouneso 81), Sheehan, Sarcevic, Isgrove, Afolayan, Doyle.
Unused Subs: Gilks, Gordon, Tutte, Thomason.