Friday, 5 October 2012

PREVIEW: Gillingham Home (06/10/12)

Oxford's six-game losing streak finally came to an end on Tuesday against Wimbledon, but now league leaders Gillingham are in town to try and undo the good work from midweek. The match comes at exactly the wrong time for us to rebuild our fragile confidence, but if we can somehow get a result it could do wonders for our season.

We wrote in our Wimbledon preview that the Dons may provide an interesting comparison with ourselves with regard to changing the manager, but the same could as easily be said of Gillingham. Last term their season fizzled out in a similar fashion to ours and left many fans calling for the head of manager Andy Hessenthaler. They duly got it and under the leadership of new boss Martin Allen have taken the league by storm, currently sitting five points clear at the top of the league with just one defeat from their opening ten games and with an ominous-looking 100% away record. Clearly a change of manager over the summer worked wonders for them, though that's not to say that we would also necessarily have benefited from a change of manager at the same time.

Perhaps some slight consolation can be taken from the fact that, despite Chris Wilder's claims otherwise, Gillingham are not at full strength. Charlie Allen is suspended after being sent off against Northampton on Tuesday, as is Danny Jackman following a red card against Rochdale last weekend, while defender Charlie Lee is out through injury. Unfortunately, we have three new injuries to contend with after Wayne Brown, Michael Raynes and Lee Cox all had to leave the field with an assortment of problems. Raynes and Cox in particular will be big misses with 20 appearances this season between them and we'll have to hope that their injuries are not too serious.

History is well and truly against us in this fixture. We have played the Gills 38 times, losing 19 and winning just seven times. In fact, we haven't beaten Gillingham since a 1986 League Cup fixture, though we did it in emphatic fashion by six goals to nil. Since then the two sides have met on nine occasions in all competitions resulting in three draws and six Gillingham victories. The most recent of those matches was back in April when the two stuttering sides ground out a dire goalless draw. Of the four times we have played Gillingham since our return to the Football League in 2010, the matches have yielded just two goals – both for Gillingham.

Also This Weekend

On Saturday morning the youths are at home to a Bournemouth side which could be on the verge of some unusual changes. Following the sacking of first team manager Paul Groves on Wednesday, he and assistant Shaun Brooks have been in talks to rejoin the Cherries youth setup. Oxford came back from 3-1 down against Yeovil last weekend to win 4-3 in heroic fashion and extend their winning run to four games. Their match kicks off at 11, which leaves plenty of time to make it to the Kassam for kick-off and even leaves enough time to pick up a signed copy of Dave Langan's autobiography from the Priory beforehand.

The ladies are currently on the back of a six-game winning streak in the South West Combination as they make their first trip along the A420 to face Swindon Town on Sunday. Their victory over Keynsham Development last weekend helped them haul in league leaders Keynsham Town who slipped up at home to Plymouth Argyle and they now find themselves second on goal difference. Swindon have had a mixed season so far and are currently midtable – but, as we know, in a derby match anything can happen. The ladies reserves lost their first game of the season last weekend against Stony Stratford, but remain top of the league. On Sunday they host a Chesham United Reserves side who have won just once in their opening four matches this season.

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