Oxford set up League One playoff final with Bolton after holding Peterborough

Cameron Brannagan’s penalty earned Oxford United a place in the League One playoff final as they drew 1-1 at Peterborough to progress to Wembley 2-1 on aggregate. Oxford followed up their 1-0 first-leg triumph last Saturday to hold on for a draw in a pulsating second leg and set up a showdown with Bolton on 18 May.

Brannagan, a penalty specialist, made no mistake from the spot in first-half stoppage time after Des Buckingham’s side had briefly fallen behind to a Josh Knight goal. That is the way it stayed despite Peterborough piling on the pressure to no avail in the second half.

Peterborough were the highest scorers in the regular League One season with a vast array of attacking riches, but it was a central defender who carried their biggest threat during the first half, with Knight tormenting Oxford at set pieces. He glanced a header from a Joel Randall corner over the crossbar before pouncing on Harrison Burrows’s free-kick only to see a deflected shot beaten away by the Oxford goalkeeper Jamie Cumming. But the same combination did provide the breakthrough six minutes before half-time as a devilish delivery from Burrows was steered past Cumming by a fine sidefooted volley at the back post from Knight.

However, Burrows, League One’s player of the season, soon went from hero to villain when he conceded the penalty that allowed Oxford to level in the third minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half. He blocked a Brannagan free-kick with a raised arm and the same Oxford player was only too happy to again prove he is a master from the spot, sending Jed Steer the wrong way to convert his 10th penalty of the campaign.

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The hosts reacted to that self-inflicted blow well to dominate the second period and leave Oxford hanging on to their aggregate advantage. Randall’s first-time strike was bravely blocked by the face of Joe Bennett before Oxford’s captain, Elliott Moore, was fortunate to see his attempted clearance from a dangerous Burrows delivery roll straight to Cumming.

Manager Darren Ferguson threw on Malik Mothersille as the game entered the last quarter and the two-time League One golden boot winner Jonson Clarke-Harris then joined Peterborough’s attacking arsenal as their search for a goal grew more desperate. But it was a fruitless chase, despite a host of close shaves, with a Clarke-Harris header cleared off the line by Sam Long before Cumming produced a flying save to deny Knight a second and earn Oxford’s ticket to Wembley.

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