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REPORT: Oxford United 2 Bolton Wanderers 0

The U's are going up

18 May 2024

Club News

REPORT: Oxford United 2 Bolton Wanderers 0

The U's are going up

18 May 2024

Josh Murphy was United's two-goal hero as they beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0 in the League One Play-Off final at Wembley this afternoon. Both goals came in the first half as Oxford deservedly took their place in the Championship for next season.

United made one change to the sides that beat Peterborough United in the semi-finals, with local boy – and Oxford’s longest-serving player – Sam Long coming in for Fin Stevens, who was named among the substitutes.

In the very first minute Long made a crunching, but perfectly legal, tackle on Paris Maghoma that left the Bolton forward requiring treatment. Oxford won the game’s first corner in the fifth minute, thanks to Tyler Goodrham’s surge forward.

That was the pattern for the first 10 minutes, with United quicker to every loose ball and snapping into tackles. Oxford looked comfortable passing the ball around the big Wembley pitch, while the press forced Bolton into occasional errors, notably when Mark Harris chased down a loose back pass that Nathan Baxter reached just in time.

When Bolton did threaten for the first time in the 17th minute, Long made a great block to deny Maghoma before Josh Sheehan shot wide from distance.

An Oxford attack in the 24th minute after Goodrham and Owen Dale exchanged passes ended with Ruben Rodrigues firing wide as Oxford continued to ask the more pertinent questions.

Their good work paid off in the 30th minute when Murphy picked up the ball on the left and drove into the Bolton area. He ignored a pull on his shirt and fired towards the top corner, his shot taking a nick off the head of Ricardo Santos and past Baxter to give United a deserved lead.

bolton murphy goal 1 (2).jpg

It was Murphy who then doubled the advantage before the break as he ran past the last defender to latch onto a ball over the top from Rodrigues, take it past Baxter and slide it home from the tightest of angles to spark delirium in the away end (and possibly the press box too).

bolton murphy goal 2 (2).jpg

United knew that Bolton would come at them at the start of the second half, which would leave gaps for the Yellows to exploit, and so it proved just five minutes in, as a Wanderers corner was cleared to allow Murphy to break free. Despite the intimate attention of the Bolton defenders, Murphy took the ball deep into the opposition half before being dispossessed, perhaps not totally legally.

Another break on 57 came courtesy of a Rodrigues interception, allowing Goodrham to play an inch-perfect ball for Murphy to run onto. He took the ball into the penalty area before sliding it past Baxter but just wide of the far post to deny him a hat-trick.

There was bad news for the U's just after the hour as Brannagan went down for the second time in quick succession, feeling his hamstring. The talismanic midfielder was unable to continue, allowing Marcus McGuane the opportunity to take to the Wembley turf.

It was a familiar story moments later as McGuane's first touch was to clear a corner into the path of Murphy. Again he raced the length of the pitch into the Bolton area but this time Baxter was equal to his shot and he saved it at the expense of a corner.

Bolton continued to look for a way back into the game, and United continued to thwart them. Another breakaway led to Dale being brought down right on the edge of the area, with VAR confirming it wasn't a spot kick. Bennett stepped up to whip in a wicked shot that had Baxter scrambling to palm it wide.

Another chance fell Murphy's way with ten remaining as Long crossed from the right and the Oxford goalscorer rose highest but couldn't direct his header on target.

As the clock ticked towards nine minutes of stoppage time, the Yellow end of Wembley was in full voice, singing 'We are going up'. And so it proved.

That's it for 2023/24. See you in the Championship next season.

Attendance: 70,472

Report: Martin Brodetsky

Photos: JasonPix, Steve Edmunds


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