It's difficult to know which Oxford side will turn up against Port Vale: the diabolical one we've seen in such recent games as against Fleetwood, or the one capable of beating league leaders Gillingham away from home. The venue for the match might give us some indication of what to expect – we've not won at home since New Year's Day, picking up just two points from a possible 12, while away from home we've won five of our last seven.
Port Vale appear to be flying, second in the league and looking highly likely to be promoted automatically this season. But they're not currently in a rich vein of form, winning just one of their last four matches. Unfortunately Port Vale are another of those sides who are better on the road and remarkably haven't been beaten away in League Two since October, picking up 21 points from a possible 27 during that run.
Port Vale manager Mickey Adams is expected to make changes to his side after they were comfortably beaten 2-0 at home to Exeter on Tuesday. The previously free-scoring Valiants have now scored just once in their last four games, which has led to some uncertainty as to who should lead the line for them this weekend.
As for ourselves, Chris Wilder is expected to make minimal changes to the side which won so impressively last time out, but there could be some changes in the midfield. Lewis Montrose available for selection after having to miss out against his parent club and Andy Whing should have recovered from the illness which ruled him out on Tuesday. New signing Scott Davies could also make an appearance after joining the club on Friday.
Our recent form against Port Vale is mixed, with dramatic 2-1 wins the last two times Vale visited the Kassam being offset by some disappointing defeats. A 3-0 defeat on the final day of last season was matched by an equally depressing 3-0 defeat when we visited earlier this season, the latter of those games being played in front of the Sky cameras.
There are several links between the two sides, the most obvious being Sean Rigg who joined Oxford in the summer from Port Vale. Several members of the current Vale side have had stints with Oxford, including Ryan Burge who spent a brief spell on loan at the Kassam in the 2009-10 season. Darren Purse is perhaps a more familiar name to long-standing Oxford fans after featuring for Oxford in the Championship in the late 90s. After a long career in football the veteran centre-back signed for Port Vale in January. And a more obscure link is Jennison Myrie-Williams, who has drawn many plaudits for his performances on the Vale wing this season. His signing was announced by Oxford in January 2011, but fell through because he had already played for two clubs earlier that season. Finally, youth team manager Chrissy Allen made five appearances for Port Vale in 1999.
FURTHER READING: Let's not go thinking it's just at Oxford where fans aren't happy. As this article shows, even fans of promotion-chasing sides like to have a good moan from time to time.
From the Vaults
Oxford United v Port Vale, 5th April 1997
The last time Port Vale won in Oxford they arrived chasing promotion to the Premier League while for us the season had petered out to nothing, so it was perhaps unsurprising that the visitors cantered to a straightforward 2-0 win. It was, however, a particularly miserable afternoon for Darren Purse, who saw red for a ridiculous elbow to the face of Port Vale's Lee Mills.
Also This Weekend
The ladies team, fresh from their incredible victory over Newcastle last weekend, are in cup action once again. This time it's the League Cup and local rivals Swindon are in town. They've already beaten Swindon once this season, 3-0 in a league match away from home, but Swindon come into the match on the back of an impressive 6-1 win over Gloucester City last weekend and will be no pushovers. The match kicks off at 2PM on Sunday at Abingdon United's Northcourt Road and entry is free of charge.
Another match you should be aware of this weekend is the U17 girls Academy side, who face Aston Villa in the quarter-final of the FA Cup. That match kicks off at 11AM on Saturday and, again, entry is free.