What must U’s learn from 5-0 humbling at Bolton?

The two sides meet again at Wembley on Saturday, with promotion to Sky Bet Championship the prize for the victor.

United have of course turned a corner since that night at the Toughsheet Community Stadium, but what must the U’s have in mind when it comes to this weekend’s play-off final?

READ ALSO: Looking back on Oxford United’s previous trips to Wembley

Of the five goals conceded by United back in March, three of them came from poor play down the sides of their own defence.

The opening goal of the night saw the Trotters play the ball from right to left far too easily, and with little pressure from the U’s.

The second goal was then a horror show between Jamie Cumming and Greg Leigh, as Bolton skipper Ricardo Santos played a long ball into the left back area, and with Cumming charging out of his goal, he and Leigh were involved in a calamitous mix-up, enabling Josh Dacres-Cogley to poke home into an empty net.

Although the play in the lead-up to Bolton’s fourth goal was brilliant, Paris Maghoma slid through an unmarked Nathanael Ogbeta, who was unmarked, and laid a cross on for Aaron Collins to stab home.

In the Trotters’ 3-1-4-2 system, it was Dacres-Cogley at right wing back, and Ogbeta on the other side, who gave United such a hard time.

For the play-off semi-final ties against Barnsley, Randell Williams was in the team in place of Ogbeta on the left-hand side.

He scored direct from a corner in second half stoppage time, to put Bolton 3-1 up in the first leg, while Dacres-Cogley provided an assist for Collins in the second leg.

Because the Bolton wing backs are so key to how the Trotters play, getting high and wide, and seeing that the U’s make full use of wingers Owen Dale and Josh Murphy, it looks pretty likely the game could be won or lost out on the flanks.

Bolton like to dominate the ball and get forward in numbers, so you would think that on the transition, United could be particularly dangerous. If the U’s are able to win back possession, and get the ball early to Dale or Murphy, then there’s the potential for both players to have plenty of open space to run into.

It’s then about getting Mark Harris and the midfielders into good areas, where they can punish Bolton.

Dale and Murphy will also have to be switched on defensively, and be mindful of where their opposition wing back is, but their experiences against Peterborough United should stand them in good stead on that front.

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