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Last weekend's playoff final winners

The future for Oxford & Crawley

2024/05/24 00:25

On Saturday afternoon, Oxford United pulled off an upset that many had actually predicted by cruising past Bolton Wanderers by two goals to nil and then less than 24 hours later Crawley Town pulled off something of an upset, albeit again quite well predicted, by easing by Crewe Alexandra.

Oxford United, for the first time this century, will be playing in the second-tier next season, whilst Crawley Town won their first ever game at Wembley Stadium in what was their first ever playoff campaign.

The two teams were not expected to go up by many and it will be fascinating to see how they approach the summer ahead and prepare for their respective steps up so this is a look at how each team does shape up ahead of the transfer window…



@Getty /

Oxford United were in the top two race until November when manager Liam Manning jumped ship and moved to Bristol City. The U’s turned to Oxford homegrown coach Des Buckingham, who had won the Indian Super League with Mumbai City. The gamble initially looked like it would not pay off as Oxford slipped out of the top two race and had a real battle on their hands to even finish the top six but they squeezed themselves into fifth spot on the final day of the season.

They then embarked upon one of the more impressive playoff campaigns in recent history, defeating the top two highest scorers in League One and conceding just a solitary goal from a set-piece across three matches, defeating Peterborough United and then Bolton in the final. The switch in mentality will be something that Oxford fans will be confident Buckingham can maintain in the Championship.

After being beaten 5-0 by Bolton in mid-March, Oxford decided to ensure their full-backs would stay back rather than join the attack, thus meaning essentially a front five with Cameron Brannagan pulling the strings and that tactical adjustment has seen them now suffer just one defeat in their last 11 matches. It will be a major step up to the second-tier, especially with players such as Josh Murphy departing at the end of their loan deals, but they will be positive of bloodying the nose of many in the Championship. 


In the last couple of years, Crawley Town have been a laughing stock in the EFL crypto bros ownership group, WAGMI United, pulling off needles stunts and very nearly relegating them back down to non-league football. Stepping back from the day-to-day operations, though, was a mature and necessary step and it has actually helped the club, who were tipped for relegation again, propel themselves back into the third division with smart recruitment under the management of Scott Lindsey.

@Harriet Lander/Getty Images

Now then, that smart recruitment will really have to continue this summer because they are heading into one of the strongest League Ones on paper in a very long time with almost half of the league well monied and having ambitions to claim automatic promotion or a top six spot at least.

They head up playing a progressive style of football, though, that will help them in the long-term and a lot of the also rans in League One may well struggle to cope with that sort of intensity both home and away so a relegation fight is likely but if they continue to sign well again then avoiding the drop would not seem impossible by any means. 


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2024-05-24 01h33m by gkingsley
Since then, they have been in the top six but never really threatened the automatic spots.

As a football fan, I am absolutely thrilled to see Oxford United finally make it to the second-tier after so many years of trying. They definitely deserve it after a strong season and it will be interesting to see how they fare against tougher opponents. Congrats, Oxford United!
2024-05-24 01h06m by jreedmanbrst
They then appointed former Leeds United and Queen Park Rangers boss Paul Hart as his replacement. Hart has experience in the Championship and will look to strengthen his squad with some astute signings. The club will also be boosted by the return of fans to the stadium.

As a football fan, I have to say I am absolutely delighted to see Oxford United back in the second-tier after so long! Their new manager Paul Hart has a lot of experience and I'm sure he will make some great signings to strengthen
2024-05-24 00h42m by lhalliday_bart
Since then, the club has been in a bit of a freefall, and it is a testament to how well they started the season that they managed to hold on to a play-off spot.

As a football fan reading this, I am absolutely buzzing with excitement after Oxford United's impressive victory. It's great to see an underdog team like them achieve success and secure their spot in the second-tier. Can't wait to see how they handle the challenges that come with playing at a higher level


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