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Barnsley, Bolton, Oxford & Posh prepare for battle

L1 playoff preview

2024/04/30 20:04

The regular season in League One came to an end at the weekend with Derby County eventually edging their way to a top two finish and automatic promotion back to the Championship.

That has left Bolton Wanderers, as well as Barnsley, as playoff entrants for a second successive season with Peterborough United and Oxford United also joining the two northern clubs in this season’s two-legged showdowns over the next week or so.

The playoffs are often packed full of ridiculously and entertaining fun spectacles with this season likely to be no different. Most definitely cruel for those involved but thrilling for the neutral so, without further ado, here is our profile and rundown of the four teams doing battle to make it up to the second-tier…


This season: 6th 

Last season: 4th (playoff finalists)

Manager: Martin Devaney (caretaker)

Captain: Jordan Williams

Trips to Wembley: 5 (Championship playoff final 2000, FA Cup semi-final 2008, EFL Trophy final 2016, League One playoff final 2016, League One playoff final 2023)

Playoff past: 1 promotion in 5 attempts (Championship finalists 2000, League One winners 2006, League One winners 2016, Championship semi-finalists 2021, League One finalists 2023)

@Getty /

After a turbulent summer in which Barnsley lost an abundance of talent all over the pitch, as well as their manager Michael Duff, the Tykes appeared to have steadied and recovered surprisingly well with Neill Collins at the helm; winning their opening game against Port Vale by seven goals to nil. They were in the hunt for automatic promotion, too, as we headed into the final few months of the season but it has been an almighty collapse.

The South Yorkshire club, with Martin Devaney in caretaker charge because they were unable to get a work permit for Austrian coach Dominik Thalhammer, finished the season with just two victories in their final 12 matches. Conceding in the 97th minute at home to Northampton Town on Saturday knocked them down to sixth, too, and has sent them into the playoffs winless in six without a manager after Collins was sacked with just one game of the regular season to go last week.


This season: 3rd 

Last season: 5th (playoff semi-finalists)

Manager: Ian Evatt

Captain: Ricardo Santos

Trips to Wembley: 14 (FA Cup final 1923, FA Cup final 1926, FA Cup final 1929, FA Cup final 1953, FA Cup final 1958, Community Shield 1958, EFL Trophy final 1989, League One playoff final 1991, EFL Cup final 1995, Championship playoff final 1995, Championship playoff final 1999, FA Cup semi-final 2000, FA Cup semi-final 2011, EFL Trophy final 2023)

Playoff past: 2 promotions in 7 attempts (League One semi-finalists 1990, League One finalists 1991, Championship winners 1995, Championship finalists 1999, Championship semi-finalists 2000, Championship winners 2001, League One semi-finalists 2023)

Bolton Wanderers will be immensely frustrated to be in the playoffs and Trotters supporters will fairly believe they ‘bottled’ it in the second-half of the campaign. After hammering Carlisle United by four goals to one at the end of January, Wanderers managed just seven victories in their final 19 league games meaning with nine draws really undermining Ian Evatt and his side as they went into the campaign as title favourites.

There will be a belief, though, that injuries were the biggest issue for Bolton in the run in so key men being back available should prove to be the difference as they attempt to get back to the second-tier for the first time since 2019. The likes of Nathan Baxter and Dion Charles missed a large chunk of the last few months but have both returned and are rediscovering their form, whilst January signing Aaron Collins has proven to be an excellent addition to the Whites attack.


This season: 5th 

Last season: 19th  

Manager: Des Buckingham

Captain: Elliott Moore

Trips to Wembley: 5 (EFL Cup final 1986, National League playoff final 2010, EFL Trophy final 2016, EFL Trophy final 2017, League One playoff final 2020)

Playoff past: 1 promotion in 4 attempts (National League semi-finalists 2007, National League winners 2010, League One finalists 2020, League One semi-finalists 2021)

For nine successive weeks up until mid-to-late-November, Oxford United sat tucked inside the top two and the automatic promotion spots after what had been an extremely impressive start to the season under the management of former MK Dons boss Liam Manning. Manning suddenly departed the U’s, though, to take the managerial post at Bristol City, leaving Oxford to appoint the inexperienced Des Buckingham.

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Buckingham, who left his role in charge of Mumbai City to return to his hometown, has had some difficulties in charge of Oxford with some issues of consistency since his appointment. They finished the season in much better shape, though, with five victories, two draws and a loss in their last eight matches and propelled themselves from eighth to fifth in that time. The potential of Oxford was laid out during that eight-game run when they won 4-0, 4-0 and 5-0 in consecutive matches. 


This season: 4th

Last season: 6th (playoff semi-finalists)

Manager: Darren Ferguson

Captain: Harrison Burrows

Trips to Wembley: 5 (League One playoff final 1992, League Two playoff final 2000, League One playoff final 2011, EFL Trophy final 2014, EFL Trophy final 2024)

Playoff past: 3 promotions in 5 attempts (League One winners 1992, League Two winners 2000, League One winners 2011, League One semi-finalists 2014, League One semi-finalists 2023)

@Getty /

Last season, Peterborough United got into the League One playoff semi-finals and would have wholeheartedly believed they had more than a full foot in the final. Posh hammered Sheffield Wednesday by four goals to nil in the first-leg before collapsing at Hillsborough. They even went back ahead in the second-half of extra-time of the second-leg but again conceded late before losing to the Owls in the most heartbreaking of ways on penalties.

Not many departed the club in the summer and the continued emergence of some real stars such as Ephron Mason-Clark, Hector Kyprianou and Ronnie Edwards has allowed them to rebuild and kick on. At times this season, Peterborough have been magnificent and there is a reasonable argument to suggest they have been the best team in the division for large parts but their inconsistency and ability to throw in a really underwhelming performance has undermined them.

Playmaker’s prediction… Peterborough to beat Bolton at Wembley

Three of last season’s four playoff semi-finalists are involved once again this time around. We have a repeat of Barnsley versus Bolton but with the two teams in a different way with Bolton finishing 11 points above the Tykes. The second-leg being back over in Lancashire will surely also give Bolton an extra edge. As mentioned, Oxford enjoyed three straight wins and scored 13 goals in the process last month with the 5-0 win in that sequence coming in a shock hammering of Peterborough. Both teams have an abundance of attacking talent and we should see goals across both legs but the sheer quality of the Posh team makes them slight favourites and with a 100% record in matches at Wembley, including a victory in the EFL Trophy final last month, as well as quality wide men such as the aforementioned Mason-Clark as well as Kwame Poku, they could well make amends for last season’s capitulation. 


Friday 3rd May | 19:30 | Barnsley vs Bolton Wanderers

Saturday 4th May | 19:45 | Oxford United vs Peterborough United

Tuesday 7th May | 20:00 | Bolton Wanderers vs Barnsley

Wednesday 8th May | 20:00 | Peterborough United vs Oxford United

Saturday 18th May | TBD | Wembley Stadium 


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2024-04-30 21h37m by l_10_brownfield
I can't wait for the League One playoffs! The excitement and anticipation is building up and I know it's going to be a thrilling and action-packed series of matches. Good luck to all the teams involved, may the best team win!
2024-04-30 21h06m by awalkerson7
As a football fan, I am ecstatic to see Derby County back in the Championship! They have a rich history and it will be great to see them competing at a higher level once again. The playoffs are always full of drama and I can't wait to see what unfolds over the next week. Let's go Bolton Wanderers and Barnsley! Bring on the excitement!
2024-04-30 20h39m by omitchellsonjones
As a football fan, I have to say I'm excited for the League One playoffs! It's always such a thrilling and unpredictable competition with so much on the line. Congrats to Derby County for securing automatic promotion, but I'm rooting for Bolton Wanderers and hoping they can make it to the Championship next season! Let the games begin!


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