CRAIG Short is proud of how Oxford United’s players stuck together after what could’ve been a hugely damaging defeat at Bolton Wanderers.

The U’s were thrashed 5-0 back in March, but rather than the wheels coming off United’s season, the side won five and drew two of their final eight games, and sealed a play-off spot on the final day of the season.

After the Trotters defeat, U’s head coach Des Buckingham implemented his preferred 4-3-3 formation, and first team coach Short hailed him for the tactical tweak.

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Short said: “Credit to the manager, he changed the system. He always wanted to go 4-3-3 and it’s worked.

“It’s the system that he always wanted to play. The players have responded very well, and I think what’s a huge thing is when you’ve got the pace out wide that we’ve got, that’s a big threat.

“Mark Harris came through the door at the beginning of the season and did a finishing session with Cameron [Brannagan], who’s a very good finisher as we know.

“His finishing that day was very good, and I said he’d get 20 goals. He’s not far off that, but one thing about him, is that pace he’s got at the top of the pitch.

“It gives you such a rest at the back. There are stats for everything in football, but there’s not a stat for showing how the centre forward stops the ball coming back the other way.

“I think he’s been wonderful, and even when he was going through his really tough spell, the lads absolutely love him because of that incredible work rate and endeavour.

“You have to be incredibly fit for that, and he’s done that day in and day out. We’ve not had a back-up number nine really, and I’ve been so impressed, and I’m really pleased for him.

“That top end of the pitch is dangerous for us, and we know that. I wouldn’t want to play against it, and then you’ve got Josh Murphy who has hit form at the right time as well.”

He added: “What I’ve been really proud of here is how the players responded after Bolton. That’s a huge thing, and you go into a final with a run of form behind you, and feeling confident.

“I know Bolton will feel like that as well, but navigating those two games against Peterborough was a huge achievement for these lads.

“They’re a quality side with a front three that could play against anyone, and beat anyone.

“I’m quietly confident, and I know the lads are. They have a lot of respect for Bolton because of what they did to us up there, but I think it’s going to be a wonderful day for us, considering we’ve had some ups and downs this season.”