The football season is upon us and it looks set to be a cracking start, with United getting underway at a sold-out Fratton Park against new-boys Portsmouth. The away end will be packed full of 2,500 yellows who are making the trip to the south coast but whether they'll come home happy or sad is very much in the balance. Both sides seem to be tipped to do well this season, with Portsmouth currently the bookies' favourites for promotion.
Portsmouth have recruited heavily over the summer, with new faces including Patrick Agyemang from Stevenage, Andy Barcham from Scunthorpe and Joe Devera from Swindon. However, the most interesting one as far as we're concerned is Tom Craddock, who could become involved in something of a 'battle of the exes' as he tries to do some damage to his old club at one end, while former Portsmouth striker Dave Kitson attempts something similar at the other.
As well as Kitson, David Hunt and Tom Newey will be hoping to make their league debuts for Oxford this weekend, as well as the returning Danny Rose, Asa Hall and Johnny Mullins. Although, unlike last year, there are few injury concerns at the start of this season, there is one notable absentee. New signing Jonathan Meades has been ruled out for 12 weeks after rupturing ligaments against Coventry last weekend.
Craddock and Kitson aren't the only connections between the two clubs. Pompey manager Guy Whittingham made one appearance on loan for Oxford, scoring against Swindon before returning to Fratton Park to take over as caretaker-manager alongside Steve Claridge. He also featured briefly for Oxford City in his younger days.
It's almost 15 years since Oxford and Portsmouth last met in a competitive fixture (a 2-2 draw away at Fratton Park) but we have faced them more recently than that in a friendly. In 2008, shortly after they had famously won the FA Cup, Harry Redknapp brought his side to the Kassam to face Darren Patterson's Conference side, with young Alex Fisher scoring a last-minute consolation goal against David James in a 2-1 defeat. There have also been plenty of more meaningful encounters between the two sides, with Oxford currently unbeaten in our last three against Pompey. In general our record against Portsmouth is average, with 16 wins and 19 defeats from 48 previous league encounters.
Fans making the trip this weekend be sure to look out for the Yellow Army collection buckets in the away end. The money raised from these will go towards the fund to buy Dave Langan's Milk Cup medals. Just £2,000 to go!
Another great cause fans may want to donate to is the 'March for Mitch', a group of Stevenage fans who are walking 60 miles from the Kassam to Broadhall Way this weekend in aid of the Cardiomyopathy Association – the charity which Mitchell Cole was an ambassador for prior to his tragically premature death. You can donate here.
From the Vaults
Portsmouth v Oxford United, 22nd December 1984
Times were good at the Manor – we were chasing promotion to the top flight and with only three league defeats all season appeared to be cruising to a comfortable 1-0 victory away at Fratton Park when some nutter dressed as Father Christmas ran onto the pitch and halted play. In the time added on for the stoppage Pompey struck twice through Alan Biley in one of the most shocking reversals Oxford fans will ever have seen. Some are probably still having nightmares about it now.
You can find this and many other old OUFC matches in our NEW & IMPROVED VIDEO VAULT!