Oxford United Weekly Round-Up: League One Playoffs Halted in the Semi-Finals

League One playoffs

Oxford United have been knocked out of the League One playoffs at the semi-final stage after a 6-3 aggregate defeat to Blackpool.

On Tuesday, the U’s lost their home leg 3-0 and while Oxford managed to find the net three times at Bloomfield Road, so did the Seasiders in a thrilling draw.

Oxford United Weekly Round-Up: League One Playoffs Ended at the Semi-Final Stage as the U’s Lose to Blackpool

Second Successive Season That Oxford Knocked Out in League One Playoffs

Having never reached a Football League playoff before, Karl Robinson’s side had secured back to back top six seasons for successive seasons. However, both ended in defeat.

Last season, the U’s progressed to Wembley with a win on penalties against Portsmouth but lost out to Wycombe Wanderers in the final. This season, Robinson’s side were outfought against a resilient Blackpool side over two semi-final matches.

First Leg: Oxford Suffer Heavy Home Defeat

The tie promised to be entertaining. Both teams entered the playoffs in form, with Oxford winning six from their last seven matches and Blackpool had won four games in succession.

Oxford started brightly and felt that Blackpool should have been reduced to ten men when James Husband brought down Mark Sykes just outside the box when through on goal, but referee Bobby Madley issued the defender a yellow card.

Brandon Barker produced a mazy run from the edge of his box into the opposition final third but James Henry’s shot was blocked by Matty Taylor.

At the other end, Jack Stevens denied Keshi Anderson from close range before Elliott Moore blocked Elliot Embleton’s rebound.

But the visitors soon took the advantage in the tie. Sykes gave away an unnecessary free kick in the Oxford half, and Embleton’s deep delivery was inadvertently turned back into his own box by Josh Ruffels and Ollie Turton tapped into an open net.

Shortly after, Simms beat Rob Atkinson to a long ball. He twisted his way into the box, cut inside onto his left foot and his effort deflected past Stevens to double the visitors’ lead.

After the restart, Oxford were soon presented with their best opportunity of the game. Henry played a pinpoint pass through to Sykes but he was unable to beat Chris Maxwell when one-on-one.

Despite their advantage, Blackpool looked for a third but Jerry Yates fired over the bar. At the other end, Henry also fired over following another run from Barker.

Oxford made a double change but it was Blackpool that handed the hosts a double blow. With the U’s chasing a goal, the Seasiders hit on the break through Yates and Simms and the latter poked the ball past Stevens to put the result beyond doubt.

With Blackpool having conceded the fewest amount of goals in the league, it was always going to be a difficult ask for the second leg.

Second Leg: U’s Score Three Goals But Not Enough to Progress to the Final

Oxford knew that if they were to have any chance of heading to Wembley, they would need to score three goals against the league’s best defence.

However, the hosts nearly added an early goal themselves, but Simms’ header was straight at Stevens.

Oxford needed an early goal to get themselves back into the tie. On seven minutes, that’s what they got. Anthony Forde looped a free-kick into the box and the ball fell to Taylor who slotted home his 19th goal of the season.

Was the unlikeliest of comebacks on? No. Shortly after, the ball was played out to Embleton, and the midfielder cut inside and curled the ball past Stevens.

Two minutes later, Blackpool took the lead on the night. The corner looked poor but it was kept alive before Kenny Dougall slammed home the goal.

Oxford looked shocked and the hosts looked in control. Simms saw an effort blocked by Stevens before the U’s goalkeeper tipped over a cross from Demetri Mitchell.

Oxford started the second half the way they began the first and could have levelled the match within three minutes, but Henry struck the post.

The early pressure paid off as Oxford soon found an equaliser. Henry’s free-kick was met by Atkinson with goalkeeper Maxwell unable to reach the ball.

However, Blackpool restored their advantage just minutes later. Mitchell found space down the right and his cross found Yates, who took his time before slotting home the hosts’ third.

Substitute Mide Shodipo reacted quickly after Maxwell only parried Dan Agyei’s cross to level the match with 16 minutes remaining. Maxwell then denied the Queens Park Rangers loanee shortly after before Stevens stopped an effort from Yates at the other end.

In truth, the U’s had given themselves far too much to do after the first leg, and Blackpool were fully deserving of their place at Wembley.

Oxford Bow Out in Style

For Oxford to even achieve a top-six finish is impressive, given how poorly they began the season. The U’s lost seven of their opening ten league games and were bottom by the end of October.

In fact, Robinson’s side only reached the top half of the table by matchday 20 and spent just three days of the season in the League One playoffs.

Now is the time to rebuild and mount a third challenge in as many years. Clearly, the is almost enough about this squad to compete for a top-six spot, with added depth the priority during the summer transfer window.

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