On This Day 2010 – Oxford United Return to the Football League

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Oxford United as they celebrate defeating York City 3-1 and return to the Football League (Photo by Matthew Ashton/AMA/Corbis via Getty Images)

“It is I think, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest game in Oxford United history,” said Jim Smith, while Chris Wilder added: “there are highs and lows and from my point of view this is definitely right up there.”

Oxford United secured promotion from the Conference back into the Football League on this day ten in 2010 following a 3-1 victory over York City in the playoff final at Wembley.

On This Day 2010 – Oxford United Return to the Football League

2009/10 Conference Campaign

It was a must-win game for Wilder’s men, who led the division by eight points at the end of October. But, as the U’s did in their debut Conference campaign, they blew their advantage with a resurgent Stevenage climbing above.

One win in eight saw the U’s fall further behind Stevenage, who themselves saw off Wilder’s side as they ended the season with 14 wins from 15 games.

Wilder seemed happy to settle for the playoffs, despite some stiff competition in the shape of Luton Town and York City. The U’s drew Rushden and Diamonds in the playoffs after finishing third, behind the Hatters.

Despite a 1-1 draw on the road, Matt Green and James Constable sent the U’s to the final with victory at the Kassam. Surprisingly, however, the U’s would face York who managed to see off second-placed Luton.

Oxford United 3-1 York City

Backed by 33,000 supporters, Wembley was yellow. York, who were managed by former U’s player Martin Foyle, struggled early on and Oxford took full advantage.

Green struck a sweet, left-footed half volley after just 15 minutes before Constable added a second five minutes later with a terrific individual effort. Jack Midson then struck the post as Oxford dominated.

York looked stunned but found a way back into the game just before the break when Ryan Clarke bundled the ball into his own net from a cross from the right.

In the second half, Wilder’s men were on the ropes. First, Michael Rankine dragged a left-foot shot agonisingly wide after holding off Jake Wright to latch on to Richard Brodie’s chested lay-off, before Neil Barrett tested Clarke with a long-range left-foot shot.

But with York pushing, Oxford launched a counter just before the 90. Alfie Potter played it out to Sam Deering who then returned a pinpoint pass back to the winger, who slotted home in front of the yellow army.

A Must win Game for the Club

It may have only been a four-year stay in non-league, but it was described as a must-win game for the club. Chairman Kelvin Thomas said: “Jim Smith basically said if we didn’t win this game we’d go out of business.

“It wasn’t true, but it wasn’t far from the truth,” he added, with the club in dire financial straits if they had failed to secure promotion.

Earlier this week, the club released a podcast featuring some of the 2010 heroes. Mark Creighton was one of the guests, and he along with the majority of the squad weren’t aware how much pressure was on that game.

It truly was a remarkable day and one that will live long in the memory for Oxford supporters. It was also the start of the rebuild which now sees the club pushing for promotion to the Championship.

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