Oxford make their longest trip of the season this weekend and look to start a new unbeaten record after the last one came to an end last week against Chesterfield. So far the yellows have amassed an impressive 10 points from a possible 12 on our travels and will be looking to continue that impressive form up in the north-east.
But they'll have to do it without a string of first-team regulars, after injuries and suspensions have decimated the squad in the last couple of weeks. Andy Whing and Dave Kitson are both suspended – Whing for his sending off last week and Kitson for accumulating five bookings in just seven appearances. James Constable, Jake Wright and Jon Meades are all out injured and will be for weeks to come, leaving Chris Wilder with just a handful of senior players to choose from.
However, with Sean Rigg making a comeback from injury last week we could see a return to the Rigg-Potter combination on either flank, which – as I wrote this week – could be vitally important for us this season. In the middle of the park, Scott Davies and Asa Hall are the main contenders to fill the gap left by Whing and if Tyrone Marsh is unable to recover in time from the ankle injury which kept him out last week they might both get a chance, with Deane Smalley the only fit striker at the club.
There are no such crises for Hartlepool, who are without Brad Walker and Antony Sweeney. After failing to win in their opening six games (or even register a goal in their first five) Pools have since picked up four points from their last two games, finding the net four times. Having finally turned their form around they will be feeling confident of continuing their run against a weakened Oxford.
They did exactly that on United's last trip to the Victoria Ground more than a decade ago, winning 3-1 on their way to promotion. That day Ritchie Humphreys – who netted against us for Chesterfield last week and has just been elected chairman of the PFA – was on the scoresheet as well that day. Not a great omen.
Here's Chris Wilder giving his thoughts ahead of the game to the club's official Youtube channel:
Also This Weekend
If you can't make it up to Hartlepool this Saturday, why not check out the youth team instead? They take on Swindon at Roman Way in the Youth Alliance League Cup this weekend, having already beaten them 3-2 on the opening day of the season. The youth team have won their last two games, beating Newport 2-0 and Exeter 5-1 last weekend, but lost 4-2 to Hereford in their opening match of the League Cup group stages so need to win this weekend to keep their chances alive. Kick-off is at 11 o'clock AM.
On Sunday the women's development team are in action, fresh from an impressive 6-1 victory over QPR, as they face Aston Villa in their last pre-season friendly ahead of the start of their WSL Development League campaign, which kicks off with a trip to Arsenal next week. No pressure then.
Don't forget you can find full fixture lists for women's, development and youth teams on our Fixtures page!