Bolton vs Oxford United Prediction | Opta Analyst

With a spot in the Championship up for grabs in the League One play-off final at Wembley, here’s our Bolton vs Oxford United prediction and preview.


Bolton vs Oxford United Stats: The Quick Hits

  • The Opta supercomputer believes Bolton Wanderers are the favourites for this match, winning 45.6% of the pre-match simulations inside 90 minutes.
  • Bolton won their last meeting with Oxford United 5-0 at the Toughsheet Community Stadium in March.
  • Cameron Brannagan has been involved in 23 goals in League One for Oxford this season (13 goals, 10 assists), the joint most of any player at the club.

Match Preview

Bolton Wanderers are hoping to get back into the Championship for the first time since 2018-19. After making a mess of their automatic promotion hopes, which saw Portsmouth and Derby County go up, they have another chance when they face Oxford United in Saturday’s League One play-off final at Wembley.

Oxford United have not been a second-tier team since the 1998-99 season but could find their way back to that level for the first time since it has been known as the Championship with a win on Saturday.

Bolton reached the final with a semi-final win over Barnsley, winning the first leg 3-1 at Oakwell before a nervy 3-2 defeat in the reverse fixture to win 5-4 on aggregate.

Bolton v Barnsley xG race

Oxford took a 1-0 advantage into their second leg away to Peterborough United, who levelled things at the Weston Homes Stadium. However, Cameron Brannagan’s penalty just before half-time ultimately sent the U’s to Wembley 2-1 on aggregate.

Brannagan has been involved in 23 goals in League One for Des Buckingham’s side this season (13 goals, 10 assists), the joint most of any player at the club. He has also scored five goals and assisted four in his last 12 appearances. The former Liverpool midfielder played the full 90 minutes in the U’s last League One play-off final in 2020 against Wycombe Wanderers.

Cameron Brannagan goal involvements 23-24

This will be Bolton’s first appearance in a Football League play-off final since 2001. That’s the fourth-longest gap between such appearances after Port Vale (29 years, 1993 to 2022), Tranmere Rovers (28 years, 1991 to 2019) and Middlesbrough (27 years 1988 to 2015).

It will be just Oxford’s second Football League play-off final appearance – they were beaten 2-1 by Wycombe in the 2019-20 League One final under Karl Robinson.

Bolton have alternated between losing (2) and winning (2) their four play-off finals, beating Preston North End in their last such game in May 2001.

In all competitions this season, Oxford have scored 97 goals, 34 more than they managed last season (63). It is their most in a season since 2016-17 (100).

Bolton have been even more fluent in front of goal, though, with their 121 in all competitions so far this season their most ever in a single campaign, overtaking the 120 they managed in 1996-97 when they were promoted to the Premier League.

Dion Charles is top scorer for Ian Evatt’s side this season in League One with 16 goals in 35 games, but Aaron Collins has also made a big impression since arriving from Bristol Rovers in the January transfer window. He has hit nine goals in 21 appearances, including a rasping strike in the semi-final second leg against Barnsley.

Mark Harris is likely to be Oxford’s danger man, with the former Cardiff City striker hitting 15 goals in 45 games this season. He and Brannagan will surely be key if Oxford are to find a way to the Championship on Saturday, though 10 of Brannagan’s 13 goals have been penalties.

Bolton vs Oxford United Head-to-Head

Bolton Wanderers have only lost one of their last eight games against Oxford United (W5 D2), a 3-1 defeat in October 2022, with all eight games taking place in League One.

After a 0-0 draw at the Kassam Stadium in November, Oxford were thrashed 5-0 at Bolton in March, their heaviest defeat of the season.

Bolton v Oxford stats

It’s only the third time a team will face another in a Football League play-off final after losing by 5+ goals during the regular league season, along with Barnsley vs Ipswich in 1999-00 (lost 6-1 regular season, lost 4-2 in the final) and Gillingham vs Shrewsbury in 2008-09 (lost 7-0 regular season, won 1-0 in final).

Recent Form

Following their penalty-shootout defeat to Blackpool in the EFL Trophy quarter-final, Bolton’s form became somewhat wobbly. They have won just eight of their 21 matches since (D9 L4). They haven’t won three games in a row since New Year’s Day.

Oxford United had a poor start to 2024, winning just two of 13 games in all competitions after 1 January up to 9 March (D5 L6). A resurgence in form saw them win seven of their last 12 though (D3 L2) to sneak into the play-offs.

Opta Power Rankings

The Opta Power Rankings are a global team ranking system that assigns an ability score to over 13,000 domestic football teams on a scale between zero and 100, where zero is the worst-ranked team in the world and 100 is the best team in the world.

Ahead of kick-off on Saturday, here is the Opta Power Ranking for both sides.

Bolton vs Oxford United Prediction

League One Playoff Final Prediction

Bolton are the favourites to win inside 90 minutes on Saturday, with the Opta supercomputer predicting them to do so in 45.6% of its 10,000 simulations. That may not be a surprise to many given the Trotters finished 10 points ahead of their opponents in the regular season.

Oxford United win in 29.1% of them, while the game heads to extra-time in the other 25.3%.


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