Oxford take another (probably brief) departure from league action this weekend, as we start our FA Cup campaign this weekend, at home to Conference side Gateshead. A home tie against lower league opposition is usually regarded as something of a dream tie in the first round, offering a good chance of progression towards the potentially lucrative third round when the big boys come to play. But given our well-documented home struggles this season, one can't help but feel that this one has 'upset' written all over it.
Last weekend's goalless draw with Luton made it six games unbeaten for the Heed, a run which includes their 1-0 win over Chester in the fourth qualifying round. That run has also included six clean sheets, so with Oxford only managing seven goals in eight home games so far, this could be a frustrating afternoon for home supporters. The visitors, currently 11th in the Conference, are perhaps understandably in confident mood coming into the match, but they will be without former York striker Richard Brodie, Marcus Maddison and former yellow Luke O'Brien.
We, of course, will be without Alfie Potter, who is absent for eight weeks with ankle ligament damage following an appalling challenge that went more or less unpunished in last week's game against Bristol Rovers. Fortunately, Fulham have allowed Ryan Williams to play this week so we do at least have cover in this area for him. Elsewhere, Tom Newey is back at left-back after serving his suspension last week, which means that once again Chris Wilder is left with a dilemma at centre-back with Jake Wright, Johnny Mullins and Michael Raynes all competing for a starting berth.
Of course, all of the above is assuming that we choose to name a full-strength side this weekend. With tickets reduced to just £10 for the game in order to tempt fans who might otherwise have decided to give the game a miss, it could be a sign that Oxford are not particularly interested in the FA Cup this year. The cups have slipped down the list of priorities this season, it seems, crashing out at the first attempt in both the League Cup and the JPT. A weakened side crashed out 4-0 away to Charlton in the first round of the former, while in the latter a youthful side were beaten 2-1 by Portsmouth despite dominating most of the match.
This will be only the third time the two clubs have met in competitive action, the last time coming in our final season in the Conference. In the first of our two previous encounters, a Matt Green goal gave us a 1-0 victory at the Gateshead International Stadium. In the second...
From the Vaults
Oxford United v Gateshead, 27th March 2010
United were on a miserable run of five games without a win and the promotion chase appeared to be faltering as Stevenage began to pull away at the top of the table. And with a crucial trip to Hertfordshire awaiting days later it was essential that we got back to winning ways at home to Gateshead. And after a nervy first half James Constable finally struck to send us on our way in the second, with substitute Matt Green scoring the winner in injury time after Gateshead had been allowed a controversial equaliser.
Also This Weekend
The youth team are back in action this week after their match last week against Hereford was surprisingly cancelled by the visitors at late notice. This time it's Bristol Rovers' turn to come to Roman Way, just a week after their grown-up counterparts came away from the Kassam Stadium with their first away win of the season.
The women's development squad are also back after a lengthy lay-off, still seeking their first win of the season. They host Birmingham City on Sunday in the League Cup, having been narrowly beaten 2-1 in their previous cup game by Yeovil Town.
Don't forget you can find full fixture lists for women's, development and youth teams on our Fixtures page!