Oxford United: Supporters will be crucial in play-off final

I have seen this League One play-off final described as a “free-hit” for Oxford United.

They are underdogs and they have made it to Wembley when many thought they had blown their chances of promotion long ago.

There were doubts – without a doubt – inside the club as the team struggled to find an identity under a new manager at the start of the year and crucially struggled to get results.

A play-off push was a dream that is forgotten soon after waking and the wake-up call had come in the shape of a 5-0 annihilation at Saturday’s opponents Bolton, which undoubtedly is also a big part of the narrative this weekend when the two sides meet again.

But without that on-the-field low, I doubt Oxford make the top eight by the end of the season, never mind the play-offs.

It allowed Des Buckingham to assert himself – and be himself – no longer having to try and contort to fit the mould of his predecessor.

It is well documented that Buckingham is an Oxford boy, he knows better than most that natives of his home city are difficult to impress and quick to spot a fake.

He has been much more successful at trying to replicate his own successes on his coaching journey around the world, than trying to duplicate the instruction manual of his fellow City Football Group graduate Liam Manning.

Some of the differences are subtle, the upturn in results has been more profound.

Having shipped five goals in one game at Bolton in mid-March, Oxford have conceded five in total in the 10 matches since.

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