Oxford vs Blackpool: Can Seasiders' fine defence withstand play-offs pressure?

The League One play-offs are set to get underway, and Blackpool and Oxford take their contrasting styles into an intriguing semi-final clash.

When: Tuesday May 18, 19:45 GMT

How to watch: Sky Sports

Best Bets

Matty Taylor and Jerry Yates both to score at 8/1 (Sky Bet)

Blackpool to win 1-0 at 15/2 (Bet365)

Blackpool to win and both teams to score at 5/1 (Bet365)

The lottery of the League One play-offs get underway this week, with Blackpool hoping to take some impressive momentum into the semi-finals.

The Seasiders produced an impressive last run to finish third, earning themselves the luxury of a home second leg.

Before all that, though, they will have to take care of business against Oxford, who won four of their final five games of the League One campaign and will fancy their chances of promotion as much as anyone.

Previous meetings this season

Oxford 0-2 Blackpool (March 20, 2021)

Blackpool put together a superb run of form this year and their 2-0 win away at Oxford was an especially impressive statement of intent.

First-half goals from Kenny Dougall and Dan Ballard gave them an impressive foothold before half-time and they never really looked like relinquishing it.

Blackpool 0-0 Oxford (December 12, 2020)

There was little to choose between the two sides when they faced-off against each other in December, and even less to write home about.

It was a match of few chances, and there were as many substitutions between they two sides as there were attempts on goal during the 90 minutes. 

Historical head-to-head

Oxford wins: 11

Draws: 8

Blackpool wins: 16

Seasiders need to maintain defensive strength

Despite Blackpool's lofty position, it is noteworthy that 12 of the top 14 teams in League one have outscored them this season. It illustrates just how impressive they have been defensively.

Indeed, their 37 goals conceded in 46 league games is the best record in the division, even better than Champions Hull City, who conceded one more.

For context on their struggles in front of goal, though, relegated Rochdale scored more than the Seasiders, meaning their play-off chances appear to hinge on their so-far watertight defence.

Oxford inconsistencies

Oxford boss Karl Robinson relishing play-off test
Oxford boss Karl Robinson relishing play-off test

For Oxford, the big question will be whether or not they can find that degree of consistency in the play-offs.

Karl Robinson's men have scored more goals than anyone in the play-offs - in fact only the top two scored more this season in League One - but also conceded more.

It has made them a dangerous side, both to themselves and others given they have drawn just eight matches this season. That means they can beat anyone on their day, but also lose to anyone.

Perhaps that kind of unpredictability is perfect for the play-offs, but then again perhaps not.

Goalscorer bets

Oxford snatched the final play-off spot with a crushing win over Burton
Oxford snatched the final play-off spot with a crushing win over Burton

One thing both teams have had this season is a consistent threat up front, and it is no surprise to see those players leading the betting markets.

Jerry Yates for Blackpool and Oxford's Matt Taylor are both 5/1 to score the first goal and 7/4 to score anytime.

You can even back them both to score at 8/1 with Sky Bet.

Elliot Lee, the son of former Newcastle and England star Rob Lee, is also a regular threat for Oxford, and he can be backed at 5/2 to score anytime.

The play-offs tend to have an innate sense of drama, so on-loan Sunderland man Elliot Embleton to score (first 11/1 or anytime 4/1) to potentially help his side into a clash for promotion with his parent club may be an interesting one to back.