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Rupert Wyman 15th May 2010 - 19:21

York to Foyle Oxford's promotion bid

In recent weeks there has been much talk about which is the biggest and most important game in football - the Champions League shootout between Man City and Tottenham or the Championship play-off final? For my money though the Blue Square Premier play-off final is just as important.

Although the fifth tier may now be more professional with the vast majority of teams full time there is a certain prestige associated with being in the world's oldest league, the Football League.

In addition since the collapse of Setanta the non-league has not had televised matches so has not had exposure to the wider public plus the clubs lost out on significant revenue.

Furthermore the Blue Square Premier is the hardest league to get out of with its sole automatic promotion place and the competitive play-offs accounting for the second promotion place.

Therefore the match at Wembley between Oxford United and York City is of indescribable importance to both sides.

Oxford were the second favourites for the title at the start of the season and for a long period of time looked like they were going to justify their short odds and return to the Football League for the first time since their relegation in 2006.

However, a loss of their own form as well as a magnificent run by Stevenage saw Boro crowned as champions.

Oxford's faltering second half of the campaign was so bad that they didn't even finish second in the end.

That honour went to the pre-season favourites Luton who found form too late on in the season to catch Stevenage.

As a result of their great run the Hatters were highly fancied in the play-offs but York were able to defeat them over the two semi-final legs to have City's fans dreaming of a return to League 2.

Nevertheless despite their surprise win over Luton, the Minstermen are the underdogs for the Wembley showpiece at 2/1.

Oxford are priced at 11/8 to win in 90 minutes but part of the U's problem since their relegation is that they have been unable to deal with the favourites tag.

In their first season in non-league, in 2006-07, they blew a huge lead at the top of the table. They then started the following season as favourites before a disappointing campaign saw them finish in midtable.

The previous disappointments may not have been under current manager Chris Wilder, who has certainly turned Oxford around, but one has to have doubts about their mentality. Especially as the U's will be backed by 30,000 supporters at Wembley and I have a feeling they might not be able to cope with the pressure.

York have also been inconsistent since they were relegated in 2004. They have avoided a further relegation on a couple of occasions but they did reach the play-offs in 2007.

One of the relegation battles occurred last season. It was the appointment of Martin Foyle that led them to safety and he has carried on his good work again this season.

Away from home this term York have gone out with the approach of trying to keep a clean sheet first and then nick a goal at the other end.

This is exactly what they did in the semi-final second leg at Kenilworth Road against Luton. It is a rather fruitful tactic when you have the fifth tier's top marksman, Richard Brodie, in your side.

With York's supporters being outnumbered by Oxford's I think that Foyle will set his side up like it is an away game and can see them repeating their Luton heroics.

13/2 is the price about a 1-0 York win and this looks a bit of value.

If you think Brodie is the man to score the goal then a scorecast is 30/1.

Key to York's chances could be their previous Wembley experience. They were finalists in the FA Trophy last year when they lost to Stevenage.

Since the play-offs were moved to the new Wembley there has been a trend of teams who have previous Wembley appearances to their name triumphing.

In 2007 Exeter lost the play-off final to Morecambe and then a year later they won the final against Cambridge. Then last year Torquay were promoted at Wembley and the previous season they had lost the FA Trophy final at the national stadium.

Therefore with York rated as the outsiders one has to back them as the teams should probably be more evenly matched in the betting.



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