• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

How have Oxford United got on during previous Wembley trips?


May 15, 2024

OXFORD United will step out at Wembley for the sixth time this weekend, as they look to secure a historic promotion to the second tier of English football.

The U’s haven’t played at that high a level since the 1998/99 season, but are now one game away from becoming a Sky Bet Championship side.

Standing in their way in the League One play-off final is a Bolton Wanderers team which was playing Championship football as recently as 2019. The Trotters will be taking part in their 15th game at the national stadium.

READ ALSO: Sam Long hails Oxford United faithful for speed at which Wembley tickets have sold


United’s first visit to Wembley is also their most iconic. On April 20, 1986, a crowd of more than 90,000 watched Maurice Evans’ side blow away Queens Park Rangers 3-0 in the last ever Milk Cup final.

With 40 minutes on the clock, man of the match Trevor Hebberd handed the U’s the lead when he waltzed down the left-hand side, and then slotted into the bottom corner from an acute angle.

Seven minutes after the break, Hebberd fed Ray Houghton for a brilliant second goal, before Jeremy Charles added the third when he finished after Paul Barron was unable to hold Hebberd’s shot.

Oxford United celebrate their Milk Cup victory in 1986 (Image: Bildbyran/ EMPICS)

Oxford United fans celebrate at Wembley in 1986 (Image: Oxford Mail archive)


United supporters then had to wait almost quarter of a century for their next trip to Wembley, this time at the new one which had opened just three years prior.

It was the club’s first ever play-off final, and proved to be another emotional day for the U’s.

A Conference play-off final attendance record was set (42,669, including 33,000 from Oxford) as United got back into the Football League.

Matt Green broke the deadlock against York City after 15 minutes, smashing into the top corner from the edge of the box with goalkeeper Michael Ingham off his line.

It was 2-0 six minutes later, Green playing in strike partner James Constable to dispatch his 26th goal of the season.

The U’s were in control, only to see their lead halved when Ryan Clarke misjudged Ben Purkiss’ corner in the Wembley rain, the ball slipping through his grasp and over the line.

It was a tense second half, but the game was won when a 91st-minute corner was cleared to set Alfie Potter and Sam Deering racing across the pitch.

Potter advanced over the halfway line and fed his teammate, who returned the ball to allow the winger to write his name in United history.

Matt Green, Jack Midson and James Constable celebrate after the Conference play-off final (Image: Jon Lewis)

Alfie Potter nets in stoppage time in the 2010 Conference play-off final (Image: Damian Halliwell)


A cup competition, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, represented a first Wembley defeat for the U’s.

Callum O’Dowda nudged United in front just before half an hour had been played against Barnsley, a lead they maintained until the break.

The Tykes hit three times in 22 minutes though, with a Chey Dunkley own goal, plus efforts from Ashley Fletcher and Adam Hammill, swung the tie.

Danny Hylton netted just a couple of minutes after Hammill’s 20-yarder, but it proved to be just a consolation.

Oxford United fans outside Wembley in 2016 (Image: Jon Lewis)

Oxford United fans at Wembley in 2016 (Image: Jon Lewis)


Another crack at the EFL Trophy, by now rebranded the Checkatrade Trophy, followed a year later, but the U’s were again on the wrong end of the scoreline.

Gael Bigirimana and George Thomas put Coventry City 2-0 in front, and like the previous year, United ensured a tense ending, this time when Liam Sercombe struck with quarter of an hour to go.

Oxford United fans outside Wembley in 2017 (Image: Chris Radburn/ PA Wire)

Oxford United fans at Wembley in 2017 (Image: Chris Radburn/ PA Wire)


The 2019/20 season was curtailed by Covid-19, with Karl Robinson’s side finishing fourth in League One, on points per game.

The play-off final saw Anthony Stewart give Wycombe Wanderers the lead in a game played behind closed doors.

Mark Sykes equalised with a cross that sailed in, however a late Joe Jacobson penalty broke U’s hearts.

The 2020 League One play-off final was played behind closed doors (Image: Adam Davy/ PA Wire)

Mark Sykes (right) scored at an empty Wembley (Image: Adam Davy/ PA Wire)