KEITH Branagan believes Wanderers can cook up another winning gameplan at Wembley.

A hero of the 1995 play-off final, the former goalkeeper was impressed by what he saw over two games against an awkward semi-final opponent in Barnsley.

Branagan anticipates another rough ride against Oxford United on Saturday but has faith that Ian Evatt’s side can rise to the occasion and secure promotion to the Championship.

“I am confident,” he told the Bolton News. “I was more worried about Barnsley and the challenge they brought. On a nice pitch, big surface, it will suit our style.

“I don’t think Oxford will come and go toe-to-toe with us in the football sense of the word, I think they will be more direct. We will have to deal with that in the same way we did at Barnsley. There will be times to roll up the sleeves and dig in, I am sure.

“Equally, if we play our normal game and command possession of the ball, tire them out, I think we can open them up and score goals. We will be well-prepared.”

Branagan was happy to see Bolton show a more pragmatic side during the semi-finals, particularly early in the first leg at Oakwell.

Whilst he expects Evatt’s side to establish control of possession against Oxford, he feels the old fashioned maxim of playing your way into a game was a sensible way to go under such high pressure.

“I was really pleased with both games against Barnsley,” he said. “It’s a cliché but it’s ‘let’s play in their half, let’s turn them around.’ “We had to wait until the intensity dropped and then we could get into them, and I was really pleased to see them do that.

“We have bee guilty in the past of playing – for my liking at least – a bit too early in the game.

“When the intensity of the opposition is right up there, emotions on starting the game are there, we have conceded a couple of goals this season. And it is not because we’re ‘overplaying’ it is just the wrong time to do that in the game.

“We were more cautious against Barnsley and that allowed us then build the platform and control the game. Once their intensity dropped, we had it – even though it didn’t feel that way in the last 15 minutes.

“We scored five goals against Barnsley over the two games. We hadn’t done that before against Barnsley.

“The end was nail-biting but we approached the game with experience and it was good to watch. There was a gameplan and they executed it really well. I am sure they will have similar planning for Wembley.”

Branagan, who has coaching roles in the academy and at Bolton School, made a crucial penalty save against Reading in 1995 often regarded as one of the turning points in the club’s modern history.

Wanderers went in 2-0 down at Wembley that day but fought back in the second half to level the scores and then win 4-3 in extra-time.

Asked what advice he would offer the players going into the final, or himself as a younger man, he said the ability to remain focussed is the key to success.

“Just prepare correctly,” he said. “Don’t do anything different.

“I think when you reach a certain level in football you gain the ability to focus on what you are doing. You learn that from your teens but particularly 16 and above when you are involved in senior football.

“The time to reflect on your performance is afterwards. It is that easy when you are a professional.

“I have known pros who can laugh and joke to a minute before 3pm and then it is like someone has flicked a switch inside them. Others need a longer build-up that that, 10 minutes, even a day before. It’s just about zeroing in on the job at hand.

“I think everyone has that ability by the time you reach that standard. There may be the odd moment where you look around and think ‘wow’ but then you are back on it.

“Of course, in psychology they talk about when that doesn’t happen, how you need to reset. Emotions play a part in football, anger, happiness, fear, they can all play a destructive part in football if you let them.

“But if I had any advice it would be to do what you have trained to do, get into your zone, the time to reflect on whether it was great or not is well after the final whistle.

“I have absolutely no doubt that Ian and his staff will be banging that drum. As players they have experienced big games, so they will make sure that is passed on to our players.”