OXFORD United head to Wembley this weekend, looking to secure promotion to the second tier of English football.

Standing in their way is a Bolton Wanderers side who thrashed the U’s 5-0 back in March.

Ahead of Saturday’s Sky Bet League One play-off final, we spoke to The Bolton News’ chief football writer Marc Iles.

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

How did Bolton end the season and what were they like in getting through their play-off semi-final tie?

Form was stabilised by the time the play-offs came around, but there was a real psychological block in playing Barnsley, the type of aggressive, awkward team that has often proved Bolton’s undoing.

They won the first leg by basically playing them at their own game. I haven’t seen an Ian Evatt team ever concede as much possession, nor go as direct as they did, but when they had to put some football together, they did it. A 3-1 win felt thoroughly deserved in the end.

We all knew the second leg would be tense and that Barnsley would throw everything at getting the first goal. Sure enough, they got it, but Bolton responded with two quickfire goals before half-time. Time to start the party, we thought. But no.

Bolton got sloppy, overconfident. They abandoned all the good things they had done in the first three halves of football and very nearly let Barnsley back in.

If I was Des Buckingham, I’d have been scribbling notes at lightning speed.

Witney Gazette:

What are the Trotters’ main strengths and weaknesses?

Bolton can choke the life out of teams in possession, and particularly away from some of the tighter, less plush environments that League One holds.

Their counter-press has also been highly effective this season and has resulted in a much more effective and consistent attacking threat. They have scored 121 goals in all competitions this season, the best a Wanderers team has ever managed.

Their attacking tendencies mean that they can, in turn, be attacked. Ricardo Santos does a lot of the heavy lifting and often gets left one v one at back. 

Barnsley used a target man, Sam Cosgrove, to good effect in the semi-final, and maybe that’s the route Oxford go down?

Who are the key players and potential match-winners?

If Ricardo Santos plays well, Bolton usually play well. They have two big goal threats now in Dion Charles and Aaron Collins, and the Paris Maghoma - Josh Sheehan double act in midfield has been brilliant to watch this season. But going back to big Rico, he’s still the key. On his day, there isn’t anyone better in this division.

How do you see the game panning out? How will Ian Evatt approach the match?

Bolton will look to control possession through Josh Sheehan, to get their wing backs forward. They will work extremely hard to win the ball back too, particularly through the waspish Charles.

They might have broken character at Barnsley, but this Bolton team has been desperate to go back to Wembley and play the sort of football they did against Plymouth in the Papa Johns Trophy last season.

There’s no shortage of confidence… but can they produce on the day?