Oxford have an opportunity to immediately put Saturday's crushing by Fleetwood out of our minds, as Burton Albion come to town. It's impossible to understate the importance of an immediate reaction to Saturday's defeat, because the last thing we want is for this result to trigger another terrible run like we've already seen earlier in the season.
Burton's away form should perhaps give us some cause for optimism in that respect. They've not won away from home in the league since the beginning of November and only 12 of their 45 points this season have come on the road. But they do come into the game on the back of a 1-0 win over Barnet at the weekend and currently find themselves level on points with third-placed Northampton.
Goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson kept a clean sheet in his first game back from injury, and Burton could prove to be a tough side to break down with the commanding presence of new loan signing Ian Sharps at the back. The Brewers could look to make changes elsewhere on the field, however, particularly up front where goals have been hard to come by, finding the net just three times since the turn of the year.
The real headline coming into the match, though, is the return of James Constable after his recent suspension. He looks set to partner Tom Craddock up front, with loanee Justin Richards obviously unavailable against his parent club. But after a defensive horrorshow at Fleetwood perhaps the real focus should be at the back, with stand-in goalkeeper Wayne Brown coming in for some particular criticism after his recent showings. One other key factor could be the fitness of Lewis Montrose, who was particularly impressive against Bradford, but was out with a tight hamstring at the weekend.
Having maintained a fairly impressive record against Burton during our time in the Conference, since returning to the Football League the Brewers have proven to be tough opposition. Our solitary Football League victory over them was a 3-0 home victory in 2010-11, but since then there can be no doubting which side has had the better fortune. Barnet came back from 2-0 down to secure a 2-2 draw on their last visit to the Kassam and dished out a 4-0 thumping at the Pirelli earlier this season.
Also This Week
Oxford's reserves play their first fixture since pulling out of the Football Combination at the end of last season, facing Hellenic League Chinnor in the quarter-finals of the Oxfordshire Senior Cup. The match kicks off at 19:30 on Wednesday at Thame United's ASM Stadium, and we might expect to see a fairly strong side being fielded, probably with a mix of senior fringe players (including youngsters Tyrone Marsh and Max Crocombe) as well as some youth players.
The Under-17 apprentice side also has a scheduled home game that evening in the Conference Youth Alliance, against Dartford Whites. However, the game may be in doubt after their planned League Cup game at home to Chelmsford City was postponed on Monday. Should the game go ahead, the fifth-placed apprentices will be looking for revenge over the league leaders, after they succumbed to a 3-0 defeat in the reverse fixture back in October.