Hugo Varley wraps up all of the last-day drama in League One as Oxford United secured sixth place
Oxford United completed a remarkable transformation to snatch League One’s final play-off position on another day of drama in The EFL.
Two weeks ago the Us’ post-season hopes looked to be hanging by a thread, with Portsmouth and Charlton seemingly holding the upper hand in what had effectively become a three-way battle for 6th position.
However, as both Pompey and the Addicks missed chances to capitalise on their games in hand, Karl Robinson’s side found themselves going into today’s clash against Burton Albion with a significant, albeit challenging, opportunity.
It was certainly going to be an uphill task. Oxford began he game a point behind Portsmouth and only ahead of Charlton by the slender margin of goal difference.
All the U’s could do was beat Burton and hope that John Coleman’s Accrington Stanley would hand them a monumental favour by keeping Portsmouth at bay.
Oxford came storming out of the blocks at the Kassam Stadium with early goals from Olamide Shodipo and Matt Taylor.
In truth, the result in Oxfordshire was over with less than half an hour on the clock. Meaning eyes quickly turned towards the South Coast, where the pressure was now on Pompey.
The tension of the final day can catch anyone out and as reports of goals going in at Oxford fed through to Fratton Park, Portsmouth grew increasingly frustrated at their inability to break through Stanley’s stubborn backline.
Then, midway through the first-half, the pendulum swung even further into Oxford’s direction.
Accrington’s Adam Phillips picked the ball up in a dangerous area, before rifling an effort past Craig MacGillivray in the Pompey goal.
The crushing silence at Fratton Park became palpable as the true significance of the goal sunk in. Danny Cowley’s side now needed two goals and while they found themselves camped in the Accrington box for much of the second period, they failed to even pull themselves back onto level terms.
As heartbreak was becoming the topic of the day in Portsmouth, Oxford eased to victory at a canter, with second half goals from Elliott Lee and Sam Winnall rounding off a deserved 4-0 win.
The final club in the race for the play-offs, Charlton Athletic, did all they could but ultimately came up agonizingly short.
A late own goal gave the South Londoners victory over champions Hull City, which was enough to leapfrog Portsmouth but left the Addicks trailing Oxford on goal difference.
Robinson’s Oxford will now go into their play-off semi-final against Blackpool with the wind in their sails, determined to go one better than last year, when they heartbreakingly lost out to Wycombe at Wembley.
The other semi-final will see Lincoln City battle it out with Sunderland, both of whom settled for disappointing draws on the final day, against AFC Wimbledon and Northampton Town respectively.