Monday sees the League One Play-Off final between clubs who almost definitely weren’t planning for life in the Championship last August.
Wycombe Wanderers are one step away from completing a fairy tale season, having exceeded all expectations on their journey to Wembley Stadium. Wycombe finished 17th last season, but raced out of the blocks this year to lead the chasing pack at the half-way stage.
Their assault on the league summit was very much slowing down by the time COVID-19 halted all competitive football however, and they can thank points-per-game for their upcoming trip to the capital.
Their cause was further aided by Fleetwood’s capitulation in their Play-Off first leg, but they deserve credit for coming back rejuvenated after more than three months without kicking a ball and they now have the chance to win promotion to England’s second tier for the first time ever.
Oxford, on the other hand, appeared to be stagnating after a promising season in League One in 2016/17. Since then, they have recorded unremarkable 12th and 16th placed finishes in the division and didn’t look like they were on the verge of mounting a promotion push.
A mediocre start to the season didn’t inspire confidence, but they were in excellent form prior to the lockdown and narrowly overcame Portsmouth following two evenly-matched semi-final legs.
They now have the chance to return to the Championship for the first time since 1999 and, having beaten Wycombe in their solitary league meeting this season, will be confident of doing so.
Both their defensive and goalscoring records were superior to Wycombe’s during the League One season and they appear to hold a slight advantage in what will be a tense affair.
While it will undoubtedly be tetchy, the absence of any crowd should help with some of the players’ nerves on Monday night and it may make for a more open game.
From a neutral point of view, hopefully that will lead to a high-scoring affair. Wycombe have had defensive problems of late, even prior to the COVID-19 lockdown. They shipped three goals in their two-legged win over Fleetwood – and have kept just one clean sheet in their last 16 League One games, pointing towards Oxford finding the back of the net at least once.
However, Wycombe did manage to score six in their play-off semi-final win and had scored in four of their five games prior to the lockdown.
They had five different goalscorers in their two games against Fleetwood and look capable of finding the back of the net themselves. Oxford additionally gave up plenty of chances in their semi-final against Portsmouth and haven’t kept a clean sheet in their last four games.
Here’s hoping it spells goals on Monday night.
In terms of potential goalscorers, it is hard to single one player out for either club.
Oxford’s Matty Taylor is the club’s top scorer, but hasn’t scored in his last three games and dropped to the bench for the play-off second leg. However, many of Oxford’s best goalscorers this season have been midfielders and there is a certain risk in selecting a midfielder to score a goal.
Wycombe’s players are even harder to choose from. The five different scorers in the win over Fleetwood is proof enough of that.
All things considered, Taylor is the best bet to find the net though and he will likely be chomping at the bit to do so. His release from parent club Bristol City will have made him keen to find the back of the net and prove a point, so he is the safest pick of a very difficult market.
* Prices on our snazzy new bet widget are bang up to date.
- All the latest football previews from across the Premier League and Europe are just a click away
- Placing bets is easier than ever with Paddy Power News’ live odds banners