After a 1-1 draw at Fratton Park, the Semi-Final second leg between Oxford United and Portsmouth was finely poised. Oxford manager Karl Robinson was looking to guide a team to the Play-Off Final for the first time in his managerial career, having fallen short at the Semi-FInal stage in 2011 and 2012 with MK Dons, whereas Portsmouth were looking to reach not only win their first-ever Play-Off fixture, but also reach the Final for the first time.
The U’s had a big chance to go ahead early on, as a slipped ball through from James Henry found Jamie Mackie who, despite having clear sight of goal, was unable to really test goalkeeper Alex Bass, the Portsmouth stopper making a routine save. Having kept 15 clean sheets in the league this season, Oxford were always going to be difficult to break down and chances in the opening half hour were few and far between.
Marcus Harness looked to make things happen for Portsmouth, but his space was restricted and Pompey struggled to find a way through. Their best chance of the half came as Ellis Harrison struck inside the box, only to see his effort blocked on the line by Simon Eastwood.
Kenny Jackett’s side did get the breakthrough shortly before half-time however, as a long ball from Bass was headed on by Harrison, to find Harness on the edge of the area whose low shot found the bottom corner. As in the first leg, Pompey were ahead.
Seconds before half-time, Oxford hit back however, drawing the tie level. A corner swung in by Henry caused confusion for Portsmouth, and Harrison somehow managed to head the ball past his own goalkeeper. Sean Raggett got back to try and hook the ball away, but Goal Line Technology confirmed that it had crossed the line, giving Oxford the equaliser.
Oxford carried momentum into the start of the second half, but despite having the bulk of the possession, they failed to test Bass in the Portsmouth goal.
Kenny Jackett introduced striker John Marquis into the game and it didn’t take him long to make himself known, as he saw his header at the back post rebound off the post following a good ball in from Ronan Curtis.
The pendulum started to swing in Pompey’s favour, as Harness went close again from distance. However, with minutes left to play Oxford were appealing for a penalty, as Agyei looked to have his shirt pulled, but referee Darren England waved away the protests.
After a cagey end to the game, it finished 1-1, forcing extra-time. A tense additional half hour of play followed the full-time whistle, and still nothing could separate the two sides. Eastwood very nearly had his head in his hands after a scuffed clearance went straight at Hawkins. The deflection could have gone anywhere, but fortunately it flew wide of the post. And so to penalties.
After Cameron McGeehan saw his spot kick saved, five penalties hit the back of the net for Oxford, a perfect penalty shootout for Karl Robinson’s side who advanced to the Play-Off Final for the first time in their history.
FULL-TIME: Oxford United 1-1 Portsmouth (2-2) - Oxford win 5-4 on penalties
Wycombe Wanderers 2-2 Fleetwood Town (Wycombe Wanderers win 6-3 on aggregate)
No side has ever overturned a three goal deficit in the EFL Play-Offs, but that wasn’t going to stop Joey Barton and his side from trying. With both sides looking to reach the Championship for the first time in their history, stakes were high at Adams Park.
Fleetwood knew they needed an early goal to be in with a chance of getting to Wembley and it was a bright start from the Cod Army. Danny Andrew fired over from a corner inside the first ten minutes, before Callum Connolly struck just wide following a dangerous Wes Burns cross into the area, as Barton’s side dominated possession.
As time went on, just as Fleetwood needed a goal, Andrew was there to deliver. Yet another attack threatened the Wycombe penalty area, with the ball being cleared to an unmarked Andrew on the edge of the area. The defender struck a sweet half-volley into the bottom corner, giving Fleetwood a lifeline.
There were a few nervy moments for Fleetwood goalkeeper Alex Cairns, who was almost caught off his line by Nnamdi Ofoborh from the halfway line, before another Joe Jacobson corner struck the top of the crossbar.
Having dominated the first half, shortly after coming out for the second half, the Chairboys were gifted a goal from Fleetwood defender Harry Souttar who, after outmuscling Fred Onyedinma to get to the ball first following a Wycombe attack, recklessly passed the ball back into his own six-yard box, gifting Onyedinma possession, who neatly slotted the ball past Cairns.
Just ten minutes later, Barton's men were right back in it as Fleetwood were awarded a penalty with Jacobson bringing down Barrie McKay.
As in the first leg, striker Ched Evans calmly stepped up and slotted the ball into the bottom right, keeping the tie alive once more.
Momentum was with the visitors once again, Evans had another shot blocked in the box as pressure mounted on the Chairboys.
At the other end, substitute Adebayo Akinfenwa almost wrapped the tie up as he struck from close range, only to have his shot collected by Cairns, before Evans threatened once more for Barton’s men, forcing Ryan Allsop into a good save low to his right.
Fleetwood kept banging on the door and were arguably the better side in this second leg, but a lack of discipline in the first leg cost them with a three goal deficit ultimately proving one step too far.
With 60 seconds remaining, Onyedinma put the tie beyond doubt with a wonderful curled effort past Cairns, giving Gareth Ainsworth’s men the chance to reach England’s second tier for the first time in their history.
FULL-TIME: Wycombe Wanderers 2-2 Fleetwood Town (Wycombe win 6-3 on aggregate)