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Football tips: League One playoff preview

01 May | BY Dan Childs | MIN READ TIME |
Football tips: League One playoff preview

Bolton, Peterborough, Oxford and Barnsley are battling for a place in the Championship and Dan Childs is on hand to assess which side will be celebrating by the end of the month.

Oxford to be promoted @ 4/1

Oxford have not held second tier status since 1999 but they are approaching the League One playoffs with plenty of confidence and look overpriced 4/1 shots to clinch a Championship berth.

The playoffs are often described as an end-of-season lottery but there is plenty of market confidence behind Bolton, who are 7/4 favourites to go up.

Automatic promotion was Bolton’s aim for much of the season, but they dropped out of the top two with a 2-2 draw at Exeter on March 9th and were unable to retrieve the position.

Bolton suffered a major setback when they lost 1-0 at Derby in their 39th game and, while they responded with a seven-match unbeaten run, it wasn’t quite enough to overhaul the Rams, who clinched promotion with a 2-0 victory at home to Carlisle last weekend.

Despite falling short of second place, Bolton can look back on a positive campaign.

The Trotters’ 87-point tally is six more than they achieved last season and 11 superior to their playoff semi-final opponents Barnsley, who they face at Oakwell in Friday’s semi-final, first leg.

Barnsley finished the season poorly – taking two points from their final six games – and took drastic action in the build up to their final fixture (at home to Northampton) by replacing Neill Collins with Martin Devaney in the dugout.

However, Devaney got off to an uncertain start with a 1-1 draw at home to the mid-table Cobblers and it is hard to see his team making the necessary improvements to seriously challenge Bolton over two legs.

Bolton should seal a spot at Wembley but they are less certain to get the better of Peterborough or Oxford under the famous arch.

Fourth-placed Peterborough tasted Wembley success in last month’s EFL Trophy final, winning 2-1 against Wycombe, and they finished the season as divisional top scorers with 89 goals.

However, their last five league games featured two wins, one draw and two defeats, including a dismal 5-0 reverse to Oxford at the Kassam Stadium.

The Posh return to Oxford for Saturday’s semi-final, first leg, with the hope of giving a much better account of themselves, but they could be in for another tough game against a team on a decent run of form.

Oxford’s results dipped in the early months of the year and they slipped to eighth after a 5-0 loss at Bolton in March.

However, the Yellows did a lot of soul searching after their dismal defeat in Lancashire and they responded by collecting 17 points from eight games.

Oxford’s top six finish wasn’t sealed until a 2-1 success at in-form Exeter last weekend.

However, Des Buckingham’s side have clicked in gear during the run-in and they could be the ones celebrating in a little over three week’s time.

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