Tuesday, 4 September 2012

PREVIEW: Swindon Town Home, JPT (05/09/12)

The season may be less than a month old, but already the drama has begun. We're in the midst of a turbulent week, as United's League Two campaign hit a bump with defeat at York this weekend, followed by troubling rumours linking Chris Wilder with the vacant managerial post at Coventry City. I'm sure we'll have more to say on that as events unfold, but speculation over Wilder's future appears to have overshadowed the latest instalment of the A420 Derby.

This was always going to be a more low-key affair than last season's contests, coming as it does in the barely-respected Johnstone's Paint Trophy, but is nevertheless being anticipated more eagerly than any previous JPT tie due to the opposition. Swindon themselves have had a turbulent week of their own. Paolo Di Canio has again been hogging the headlines after Swindon's 4-1 defeat at Preston on Sunday, hauling off goalkeeper Wes Foderingham after 20 minutes, questioning the player's professionalism and threatening to leave him out of the side if he didn't apologise – which he duly did. Never one to refuse a good soundbite, Di Canio then told supporters who question him to go and support Oxford! No thanks, Paolo, you can keep them.

Nevertheless, Swindon had been in fine form before this weekend's hiccup, which was their first defeat of the season. Their cup form in particular has been impressive, recording League Cup victories over Championship Brighton and Premier League Stoke already this season. Expect them to send a full-strength squad to the Kassam – if the fact that Swindon are one of the few clubs in the country who view the JPT as a competition worth winning wasn't enough, they're also looking for revenge after last season's double humiliation. As one might expect they've been busily acquiring players before the close of the transfer window, so Swindon could shuffle the deck after Sunday, possibly handing debuts to new signings Adam Rooney, Federico Bessone and Giles Coke.

As for us, Wilder seems likely to try and stick with a settled side despite losing at the weekend. With the current injury situation there really is little choice. Ordinarily, it might be expected that Wilder might choose to shake up a defence which has conceded six goals in the last two games, but with injuries to Michael Duberry, Andy Whing, Liam Davis and Harry Worley the only players who could possibly come in are teenagers Daniel Boateng and Sean McGinty. Nevertheless, the same defensive unit had only conceded once in the first four matches of the season, so they are more than capable of keeping Swindon's strikers at bay, while Forster-Caskey has looked creative in the middle and Deane Smalley has looked lively up front – hopefully those two have recovered from the knocks they've been carrying.

Oxford haven't lost to Swindon in more than a decade – mostly because the two sides haven't met too often during that time! The last time Swindon emerged victorious was their last visit to the Manor in March 2001, when David Kemp's pitiful side succumbed to a limp 2-0 defeat on their way to relegation. This is the first time the two sides have met in the JPT in its current guise, but there have been numerous meetings between Oxford and Swindon in various other pointless competitions. In 1983-84 Swindon came to the Manor in the predecessor to the JPT, the Associate Members' Cup, winning 3-1. In 91-92, United went down on penalties at the County Ground in the romantically-titled ZDS Cup and followed this up with defeat in the Anglo-Italian Cup the following season.

FURTHER READING: If you haven't already read this, here's our Timeline of the Oxford-Swindon Rivalry.

From the Vaults

Oxford United v Swindon Town (FA Cup), 8th December 2002

One would naturally assume that the 'romance of the Cup' would be lost on the ruthlessly efficient Ian Atkins. However, he oversaw a piece of FA Cup magic as Swindon – a league higher than Oxford at the time – were toppled in front of the BBC cameras to set up a third round tie away to Arsenal and expose Jefferson Louis' backside to the nation.

You can find this and many other old Oxford matches on our Video Vault page.

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