EFL League One & League Two

Bolton v Oxford: Collins the key for goals and Trotters chances

Bolton fans will be heading to Wembley on Saturday

Alan Dudman previews the League One Play-Off Final at Wembley on Saturday and has a pair of bets to consider...

  • Bolton have a fine record against Oxford

  • Buckingham's inexperience crucial versus Evatt?

  • Alan Dudman has two 11/43.75 tips for Saturday's final


Bolton Wanderers v Oxford United
Saturday 18th May, kick-off 16:15
Live on Sky Sports

Bolton survived a scare against Barnsley in the semi-final second leg, and scraped through 5-4 on aggregate. On form, that really shouldn't have happened, but the play-offs in both Leagues One and Two has seen form count for nothing.

Ian Evatt's team had done the hard work in the first leg at Oakwell with a 1-3 win, but some slack defending cost them in the return leg with Evatt saying: "Then just a crazy mistake gifted them a goal and changed the momentum. Then they have nothing to lose and are able to throw everything at us. We somehow managed to survive."

Oxford were far more disciplined defensively, and while I fancied Peterborough to go through, the U's kept out a barrage of Posh waves and Darren Ferguson nailed it by saying his side battered Oxford. They did, but the U's deserve credit for hanging in and played the tie well over two legs.

Bolton deserve to be odds-on for Saturday

Bolton have the supremacy on Oxford as they have only lost one of their last eight games against them (W5 D2), a 3-1 defeat in October 2022, with all eight games coming in League One.

It's understandable they are 9/10 on the Sportsbook for the win, and they were fully 10 points clear of Oxford in the final league standings.

Bolton have alternated between losing (2) and winning (2) their four play-off final matches, beating Preston North End in their last such game in May 2001, but their last appearance was so long ago, it means very little 20-odd years on.

Oxford are 11/43.75 and won their first two matches at Wembley (1986 vs QPR, 2010 vs York) but have since lost each of their last three trips to the national stadium (2016 vs Barnsley, 2017 vs Coventry, 2020 vs Wycombe).

Bolton are more attack-minded and scored 86 across the season (excluding the 1-3 and 3-2 in the play-offs) and it could be a case of Oxford playing in a similar manner to the Peterborough game.

Sportsbook offers a nice 11/43.75 price

In all competitions this season, Oxford have netted 97 goals, which is 34 more than they managed last season (63). It's their most in a season since 2016-17 (100), so there's improvement from Des Buckingham's side, while Bolton's 121 goals in all competitions so far this season is their most ever in a single campaign, overtaking the 120 they scored in 1996-97 when they gained promotion to the Premier League.

On those stats alone the BTTS has to be considered with Bolton at 11/43.75 for the win and BTTS, and if you fancy Bolton, you have to fancy goals, and that's a bet I like at the price.

They had an xG at home of 1.63, but the jitters at the back against an out-of-sorts Barnsley shows they are hardly rock-solid at in defence and five of their last six games have hit BTTS.

Evatt played in 11 play-off games as a player, including three Wembley finals for Chesterfield and Blackpool and that experience could edge it over Buckingham's inexperience.

Shots on target - go with Collins again

I tipped up Aaron Collins for an assist in the Oakwell defeat, so it was frustrating he popped up with a goal, but he's a class act and his creativity might be key in unlocking a defence that kept Peterborough to just one goal over two legs.

Collins and his run of nine goals in the last 14 games (including a hat-trick) makes we want to keep him onside for any goal or assist bet.

In the Player To Have 1 Or More Shots On Target In Each Half we can get 11/43.75.

Oxford's Cameron Brannagan has been involved in 24 goals in all competitions this season (13 goals, 11 assists), the joint most of any player at the club, and he's netted five goals and assisted four more in his last 12 appearances. He also played the full 90 minutes in the U's last League One play-off final in 2020 against Wycombe and he takes penalties.

His coolness was key in the Posh game, and he is 6/17.00 Anytime Scorer.

Corner match bet option

Bolton dominated plenty of their home games on the corner count - including winning the corners 6-0 against Portsmouth towards the back-end of the season, and beat Shrewsbury on the corners 12-5.

The side-market here of Race To Two Corners could be copped in the space of 10 minutes, and Bolton to win that bet at 4/91.44 looks more interesting than a few others.

It's a price that could be tied in with a Bet Builder.


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