Oxford begin their league campaign this weekend with a trip to the Memorial Ground to face Bristol Rovers. All eyes will be on James Constable after the Pirates’ continued interest in the striker, but Wilder is ‘100 per cent’ certain that he will still be an Oxford player come kick off. A good performance from him will certainly raise the asking price, but he was off the pace in Tuesday’s cup victory over Bournemouth and it will be concerning if his poor form so far in 2012 carries over into the new season.
It’s a tough start to the season against a side who are among the favourites for promotion. Manager Mark McGhee has been backed to assemble his own side, with a host of departures early in the summer and a steady flow of incoming players. After selling Mustapha Carayol to Middlesbrough for an undisclosed fee a couple of weeks ago, they should have more money to spend as well. As such, on the opening day of the season Rovers are something of an unknown quantity with all the inevitable questions over whether the team can ‘gel’ and all the expectation of a club that has signalled its intent in the transfer market. A 3-1 defeat in the League Cup to Championship side Ipswich Town also tells us little about what to expect from our opponents, making this match a difficult one to call.
In typical style, we start the season with a depleted squad. Michael Duberry, Liam Davis, Peter Leven, Andy Whing and Harry Worley are all absent through injury and many of those will be long-term layoffs. As a result, it seems unlikely that there will be many changes to the side which played 120 minutes against Bournemouth during the week, with the only likely addition being Alex Evans whose international clearance has now come through.
We’ve fared pretty well against Bristol Rovers in recent seasons. The last meeting between the two sides was a drab affair, a goalless draw on a boggy pitch in February. However, the two meetings previous to that resulted in comfortable wins for United. When Rovers visited the Kassam back in October 2011, Oxford produced a masterful performance which left us purring to ease to a 3-0 victory. And let’s not forget when League One Bristol Rovers came to the Kassam for Oxford’s first home game back in the Football League in August 2010, when the yellows dished out a 6-1 thrashing to their higher-league opponents in the League Cup.
From the Vaults
Oxford United v Bristol Rovers, 26th September 1995
Oxford had made a decent but not spectacular start to the 1995-96 season, sitting just outside the playoff places in Division Two (League One), but having drawn matches we needed to win in order to challenge at the top of the table. We were unbeaten at home, with three wins and a draw to our name when Bristol Rovers – one place behind us on goal difference – turned up at the Manor…
You can find this and many other old Oxford matches on our Video Vault page.