Oxford United football club are qualified for the league one playoff final after defeating Portsmouth football club 5-4 on penalties on Monday. Oxfordshire based club are now setting their eyes on a Championship qualification for the first time since 1994.
On the road to the qualification, Oxford drew 1-1 with Portsmouth in the first leg of the semi-final tie. The second-leg also ended 1-1 before the scores were settled via penalty shootout.
How Portsmouth fell…
Portsmouth were the better side but they were unable to run away with the much-needed win. They scored the first goal in the 38th minute after a beautiful build-up that started when Alex Bass gave a long pass to Harrison. The fast-thinking forward did not waste any time on the ball before he nodded it to Harness. The striker seized the moment by burying the ball perfectly to stage what was looking like a one-sided first half.
The same set of players – Bass and Harrison that combined for Portsmouth’s first goal were on duty for the second goal. But this time around, it was in their own half. Oxford had a corner in the last minute of the additional time. When the corner was taken into Portsmouth’s box-eighteen, Harrison and Bass were the closest to the ball and they both struggled to nod it out of their own line.
At the end of the struggle, Harrison was the first to get to the ball and nodded it into his own net in the 45+3 minutes. Portsmouth’s defender, Sean Raggett stretched to clear his line but it was too late as the referee signalled that it was a goal.
The first half ended 1-1 and Portsmouth’s player left the pitch feeling disappointed but with the hope that they can finish the match in the second half. However, that didn’t happen. The second-half dragged until extra-time and then penalties.
Portsmouth’s John Marquis was the first to step up for the spot-kick and he did it very well. His other teammates – Gareth Evans and Lee Browne also scored theirs. Oxford’s players also responded well as Oxford’s Ben Woodburn, Anthony Forde and Matty Taylor scored theirs.
The moment that changed everything was when Portsmouth’s Cameron McGeehan stepped up for the visitors’ 4th spot-kick and the kick was saved by Oxford’s goalkeeper Simon Eastwood. The 5th spot-kick of Oxford became the decider as Oxford’s Cameron Brannagan finished the job beautifully to send his team into the playoff final.
In reaction to the victory, Oxford’s manager Karl Robinson said: “I’m just full of admiration for the players. We’re in the final, what more can you say? When you think that I’ve had to sell my two best players in January and we came into this game with three or four struggling with injuries, it’s incredible.”
While Portsmouth’s manager Kenny Jackett said: “I’m obviously very disappointed. We got our noses in front twice in the two matches and we’ve given away two sloppy goals. We’ve been able to take control by scoring the vital first goal but we’ve not been able to capitalise on it.
“We’ve been in the playoffs two years in a row now. We need to dust ourselves down, raise our standards and try to go one better next season and go up. And when training starts again we’ve got to make sure there is no hangover from this.”
The Playoff final: Oxford Vs Wycombe
Oxford United now has a date with Wycombe on Monday, July 13 at the Wembley Stadium. The winner of the Playoff final will automatically qualify for the Championship, the second tier in English club football, next season.
Wycombe qualified for the playoff final after drawing 2-2 with Fleetwood on Monday night. Wycombe won the first leg of the semi-final 4-1, hence they scaled through 6-3 on aggregate.