Having set their sights on a top-six finish this season, Oxford United enjoyed a strong first half to the campaign, and their claim was strengthened by a strong run of results in the early stages of the new year.
After suffering consecutive defeats, Karl Robinson’s men bounced back impressively, earning 10 points from their next four outings, with a 7-2 thrashing of Gillingham a particular highlight alongside wins over fellow promotion-chasers Sheffield Wednesday and Portsmouth.
In that eye-catching victory, Cameron Brannagan converted four penalties alongside goals from Billy Bodin, Matty Taylor and Anthony Forde, but their unbeaten run was put to an end last time out.
The U’s met Accrington Stanley away from home, and they were sent back to Oxfordshire empty-handed as John O’Sullivan and Ethan Hamilton got on the scoresheet in a 2-0 home win.
Despite that, Robinson’s men remain fifth in League One with several of the top sides stagnating, although, with only one point between themselves and seventh-placed Sheffield Wednesday, they will be desperate to return to winning ways to keep hold of their top-six status.
They face the tough task of welcoming one of the league’s form sides, as Bolton arrive looking to extend a five-game unbeaten run.
After four consecutive third-tier defeats left them on 29 points from 25 games, the Trotters’ faint hopes of earning a playoff spot looked all but over, but Ian Evatt’s side have managed to turn their form around in eye-catching fashion.
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They arrested their slump with four straight victories, defeating Ipswich Town, Shrewsbury Town, Cambridge United and promotion-chasing Sunderland consecutively, netting 11 goals and not conceding in the process before they were halted by a draw with Morecambe.
The Lancashire outfit then made an instant return to winning ways on Tuesday at home to Charlton Athletic, as Will Aimson netted the decisive goal in the final 10 minutes of a 2-1 victory.
That saw Evatt’s men move within 11 points of the top six, and, while they will still require a particularly strong end to the season, the Trotters will be pleased that they have a slim chance of booking a place in the playoffs, with a victory over a rival seen as crucial on Saturday.