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League One Playoffs: Who Makes The Final?

The League One season is over, and after a dramatic final day, which saw the playoff positions constantly change, we now know who will be participating in the League One playoffs this year.

Bolton and Peterborough were confirmed before the start of the final day and will be the favourites to win, but they will be joined by Barnsley and Oxford United.

Barnsley will be tasked with taking on Bolton, leaving Oxford United to take on Peterborough, in the two-legged playoffs. So, how will each side's fixtures go, and who will be making it into the final?

Barnsley or Bolton

Barnsley just about managed to keep their position in the top 6, even after conceding in the 96th minute at home against Northampton, mainly because Lincoln and Blackpool lost against Portsmouth and Reading respectively.

This means that Barnsley will take part in the playoffs without a full-time manager, following the dismissal of Neil Collins.

It was due to this that many expected them to drop out of the top 6 following the fixtures on the final day, but they got the business done and kept hold of their spot.

Their reward is a doubleheader against a Bolton side who have gone from strength to strength this season under Ian Evatt.

They have had their problems at various stages throughout the season, losing 4-0 at home against Wigan in their fourth game of the season, and a 4-1 loss against Blackpool later on in the season.

But other than a few blips, they have been a strong side this season, and they boast the best home record this season, having won 15, drawn 5 and lost 3 games all season in the league.

So, how will the fixtures between the two play out? If their league games are anything to go off, they will be entertaining and hard to predict.

At the start of February, the two sides met at the Toughsheet Community Stadium, and a very even game ended that way, with the sides settling for a 1-1 draw. Devante Cole put the visitors in front early on, after just five minutes, but Zac Ashworth levelled the game in the 64th minute.

As for the reverse fixture, a shot heavy Bolton side grabbed an entertaining 2-2 draw following a 96th-minute equaliser, coming back from 2-0 down.

John McAtee gave Barnsley the lead after 24 minutes, and Donovan Pines extended that lead just two minutes after halftime.

Bolton fought back in the second half however, with Victor Adeboyejo halving the deficit after 62 minutes, and Randell Williams completed the comeback, scoring a dramatic 96th-minute equaliser as Bolton snatched a point.

It is hard to see how the playoff fixtures will fare based on this. Barnsley were in a more secure position when these two games were played. Neil Collins had a secure job, but now there is nobody there, and they are relying on an interim manager to get them promoted.

Bolton will be thinking they are playing Barnsley at the perfect time. Losing their manager, fan unrest around the stadium, and reports of people boycotting the home leg. Bolton should prove to be too strong here. As long as they do not lose heavily in the first leg, Bolton should reach the final.

Oxford United or Peterborough

The other fixture sees Oxford United coming up against Peterborough. Oxford are a side who have come through a lot this season. They lost their manager Liam Manning to Bristol City at the start of November, but Des Buckingham has come in and got them over the line.

There have been times this season when many expected Oxford United to drop off and fade away following a few poor results, but they always managed to bounce back, and finished the season in some good form, following 5 wins and 2 draws in their last 8 games.

They will come up against a Peterborough side who at times have looked so strong but looked so poor at the same time.

Peterborough are one of the more dangerous sides in the division. Their pace out wide and upfront can cause serious problems for any defence in the league, and they have the experience to pull them through difficult games.

They have had some brilliant results this season, and are always capable of scoring a handful of goals. However, at the same time, they always look susceptible in defence. Just a few weeks ago they lost 5-0 against Oxford United away from home and lost 3-1 at home to a Carlisle side who had already been relegated.

Peterborough’s success all depends on which side turns up in the playoffs. If they play poorly, it could be a hard watch for them, but if they start the game strongly, they are the ones to watch.

How did the two teams fare against each other in the league this season then? The first fixture saw Peterborough at home, and it was a very straightforward win for them.

Hector Kyprianou gave the hosts the lead after 24 minutes, and Ricky-Jade Jones extended that lead just 10 minutes later. Ryan de Havilland finished off a fine Peterborough performance, making it 3-0 in the 92nd minute, whilst limiting Oxford to just two shots on target.

The reverse fixture went anything but Peterborough’s way, as they were humbled at The Kassam Stadium. In complete contrast to the first fixture, Peterborough struggled to get any shots on target, registering just one, whilst Oxford ran away with it.

Mark Harris opened the scoring from the penalty spot after 19 minutes, and Josh Murphy extended that lead just after the half hour mark. Ruben Rodrigues put Oxford in a commanding position just 7 minutes before halftime, putting them 3-0 up.

The dominance continued into the second half, with Rodrigues grabbing himself a second just before the half hour mark. Billy Boden finished the rout, with an 89th-minute effort, securing Oxford a 5-0 win over their promotion rivals.

Based on this, it is extremely hard to predict which of the two sides will book their spot in the final. Both teams have shown they are capable of blowing the other side away, and this will not be decided by one result.

Peterborough have looked far too good at times this season to be a League One side, but they need to be defensively sound to get past Oxford over both legs, but, they should be the ones to meet Bolton in the final.

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