5 of the Best Oxford Comebacks

We take a look back at five of the most spectacular comebacks available on the internet.

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The Curse of the Kassam?

A pair of articles examining Oxford's poor home form and speculating on the reasons why. In the first we lay the blame on the counter-attacking system. In the second, we examine the role of the home fans.

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The Future's Bright

Oxford's under-18s outclass their Swindon counterparts, leaving your writer purring over their future prospects in the first team.

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The Importance of Width in League Two

Why Sean Rigg and Alfie Potter's form will be essential to our hopes of League Two promotion this season.

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We'll Win Nothing With Kids?

We look at whether the young development squad players are ready to step up to first team action.

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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Why Home Form Will Always Be a Problem Under Chris Wilder

One factor that has been frequently remarked upon this season is the considerable difference between Oxford's home and away form. Saturday's miserable 1-0 defeat to Chesterfield was our seventh at the Kassam Stadium this season, meaning we have taken just 29 points from a possible 60 at home – less than half. In direct contrast, our form away from home would put us in the top seven in the league with as many victories on the road as we have mustered at home all season.

Many supporters have been quick to blame the condition of the pitch (and the presence of London Welsh) for our poor home form, and this certainly hasn't helped. Others have blamed the toxic atmosphere in the stands for destroying the team's confidence. But this problem is not a new one, it's been an ever-present thorn in our side for the last three seasons and is representative of a more fundamental failing which has never been addressed.

Way back in September 2011 I wrote about this very same issue, arguing that the reason we were performing better away from home was because “the onus to attack is on the home team, and as they attempt to venture forward the game becomes more open”. This works away from home because our style of play has always benefited from an open game, but at home we are often facing sides who come looking to knick a goal and then see the game out. Chesterfield were a classic example, scoring with their only chance after five minutes and then looking to slow the game down and frustrate as they sought to cling onto their lead.

And the Chesterfield example is not a one-off, we've seen this happen countless times in recent seasons. Take for example our first home game in League Two back in August 2010. We thoroughly outplayed a Bury side who went on to win promotion at the end of the season – yet somehow finished that game on the losing side. The reception the team got after that match was overwhelmingly positive because although we had lost we knew we had been by far the better side and that could only spell good things for the rest of the campaign. But that feel-good factor soon wore off after repeat performances against Stockport, Aldershot, Torquay, Gillingham, Southend and Hereford. Last season it was the same story, as we dropped points at home to Aldershot, Burton, Bradford, Crawley, Crewe, Hereford and Macclesfield – despite being the better side in every one of those games.

The problem which hasn't been solved here is the age-old issue of how to beat sides who turn up and 'park the bus' and it is a problem which, in three years of trying, Chris Wilder has been unable to solve at League Two level. The sides which win promotion aren't vastly better than us in footballing terms; the key difference between them and us is that they have found a way to grind out results against these sides. The unfortunate fact is that any mediocre League Two side can pass the ball around nicely enough on their day – we're certainly not the only fans who have proclaimed their side 'the best footballing side in League Two' only to come unstuck in matches we should be winning. The true key to success at any level is being clinical when chances are created.

The Chesterfield match was a case in point: on chances created Oxford should have won that match with ease. Chris Wilder himself said afterwards that it should have been 5-1 at half-time, but we were let down by wasteful finishing. Chesterfield won on Saturday because they converted the one chance they created and against an Oxford side which simply cannot finish their chances, that is all our opponents need to do. Again this is nothing new, we've been complaining about this same problem for a while now and it isn't being put right. As this graph from the excellent Experimental 3-6-1 shows, we are decidedly middle-of-the-road when our goals-to-chances ratio is compared to the rest of League Two:
Picture from Experimental 3-6-1
This brings us round to another oft-raised point, which is the absence of any specialist coaching for the strikers. Chris Wilder, Mickey Lewis and Andy Melville might well be very good coaches, but they were all defensive players and have brought with them that defensive expertise. Is it so surprising that our strikers couldn't hit a barn door when the people coaching them on it were never trained in it themselves?

Unfortunately, these issues have never been addressed, despite being painfully apparent for quite some time, and it now seems obvious that they won't be addressed as long as Chris Wilder is the manager. This isn't a call for his head, but simply a statement of what appear to be the facts. Speculation has been rife for quite some time that Wilder will be replaced as manager in the summer, but whoever is in charge next season needs to look at this as their first priority. Find ways to beat defensive sides at home and be more clinical in front of goal.

Of course, that is just my opinion. Here are a range of other opinions of why Oxford have struggled at home this season.

What's you opinion? Leave a comment!

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Saturday, 16 March 2013

MATCH REPORT: Oxford United 0-1 Chesterfield

The play-off charge we had been beginning to get excited about came to a stuttering halt as Oxford found themselves beaten at home to a mediocre Chesterfield side. The curse of the Kassam struck once again it seems, as this result means that Oxford have now been beaten seven times at home this season. No wonder so many are feeling disgruntled.

Oxford looked to get on the front foot from the kick-off and, just as they had in midweek against Barnet, it was a lively start. But it wasn't long before we found ourselves on the back foot as Chesterfield, from their first (and as it turned out, only) chance of the game, took the lead. Defensively it was a really poor goal to concede, failing to deal with a simple long ball on the right-hand side which fell to the feet of Marc Richards who buried the ball into the back of the net.

But neither fans nor players were disheartened by the early setback and the extent to which United dominated the first half was impressive. However, through a combination of bad luck and a lack of composure in front of goal the numerous chances Oxford created in the first half all failed to level the scores. Deane Smalley in particular was a repeat offender, doing really well on numerous occasions to get himself into a good position only to fluff his lines at the crucial moment.

The first of these clear chances came as goalkeeper Tommy Lee – who had been the subject of much taunting from the home fans – spilled a cross at Smalley's feet, but he was unable to scramble it over the line and Chesterfield were able to clear. And again he was inches away from an equaliser when a dangerous ball from Damian Batt beat the keeper, but Smalley just couldn't stretch enough to reach it when the slightest of touches would have resulted in a goal. Smalley's hat-trick of missed chances came shortly before the half, when an excellent ball from Scott Davies put him through one-on-one with the goalkeeper, who was quick to go to ground. But instead of chipping it over the now-helpless keeper Smalley instead chose to blast the ball at his face and the chance was missed.

Chesterfield also played their role...the role of irritating, time-wasting match-spoilers. They were aided in their attempts to slow the game down to a walking pace by a thoroughly inept referee who did nothing to move the game on and played a laughably small amount of injury time after numerous stoppages for dubious 'injuries' to the Chesterfield players.

But if it seemed slightly unbelievable that we could have found ourselves 1-0 down after an impressive first-half performance, the second was an uncomfortably familiar demonstration of how not to overcome a single-goal deficit. United created nothing, looking utterly clueless going forward and awful in possession. Countless times passes went astray and possession was wasted, and the lack of movement off the ball betrayed a side that was completely out of ideas.

Both Sean Rigg and Alfie Potter, both of whom are usually dangerous players, had subdued games. They saw plenty of the ball, especially in the first half, but were unable to do anything with it and both struggled to get past the Chesterfield full-backs.

In a sign of desperation, Chris Wilder threw Harry Worley into the fray towards the end of the game, the result being that Oxford started pumping balls forward to the big man which were harmlessly punted back. To see us looking so listless when chasing the game and totally incapable of testing the keeper at all in the second half was incredibly frustrating when chasing the game. And especially because, on the evidence of the first half, Chesterfield would never have been able to withstand a sustained period of pressure if we could only have kept the tempo up.

But it wasn't to be, and we now look to our impressive away form to rebuild confidence against Northampton next weekend. The more reactive elements amongst our supporters have been quick to declare our season 'over' after this result, but the fact is that it was pretty unlikely that we would be able to reach the play-offs before this match and it's pretty unlikely now. It is, however, still possible.

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Ultimate Support Ladies Day

Oxford United Ladies are preparing for the biggest game in their history...again. After overcoming Newcastle United in the fourth round of the FA Women's Cup, the ladies now find themselves up against WSL side Everton in a match which could be of crucial importance to their bid for a place in the expanded Women's Super League next year.

More than 700 turned out for the Newcastle game and Oxford fans are now being urged to come out and show their support for the ladies with a crowd topping 1,000. This would be a hugely impressive crowd for women's football – only three WSL matches broke the 1,000 barrier in last year's competition and to get such a figure at Oxford would be an impressive demonstration of the level of potential interest in the women's game here in Oxford. Of course, an unlikely Oxford victory would also be a strong statement of intent and if the ladies are going to do that they will need all the help they can get from a large and supportive crowd.

That Oxford have even reached this stage of the competition – the first time in the club's history – is quite an achievement. Oxford, as the lowest-ranked side still remaining in the competition, are the only club from the Combination leagues to have reached this stage after knocking out two sides (Charlton and Newcastle) from the Women's Premier League.

But this is just the latest in a series of impressive forward strides that this side has made. They were only promoted last season and are challenging this year for a second successive promotion, having only been beaten twice this season in all competitions. Anyone who saw the Newcastle game can testify that they play attractive football and are a good side to watch and the prospect of a remarkable cup upset should be tempting for anyone.

But before we get too carried away with Oxford's prospects, we should remember that we are coming up against a professional side who finished last season as the third-best club in the whole country. Three of the Everton players – Jill Scott, Toni Duggan and Rachel Brown – have just returned from England duty, fresh from winning the Cyprus Cup. Oxford have never faced a side of this quality before and Everton are sure to be incredibly tough opponents.

Oxford captain Sahara Osborne-Ricketts is an injury worry, after picking up a knock in the Newcastle game. Without her, the ladies fell to a surprise defeat in the League Cup to Swindon but recovered in style last weekend by dishing out a 9-0 thrashing to Keynsham Development.

This is a match that any Oxford fan should make an effort to get to and the ladies will need as much support as they can get. But a shock win and an impressive crowd will send out a message to the whole of women's football, and with the announcement of the clubs selected for the expanded WSL due in June we could all play our part in bringing professional women's football to Oxford.

Adult tickets cost just £5 and are available from the ticket office before the Chesterfield match and also on the day. Bring as many people as you can!

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Friday, 15 March 2013

PREVIEW: Chesterfield Home (16/03/13)

A season that many of us chose to write off weeks ago now appears to have some life in it after all! Tuesday's narrow victory over Barnet thanks to an injury time header from Michael Raynes made it five wins from the last seven for United and 16 points from a possible 21. The gap between us and the play-offs is now just five points and with eight games still to play everything is still very much up for grabs.

Chesterfield may also harbour an outside chance of claiming the final play-off spot. Currently 12th, they will need to bridge a ten-point gap to get there and matches like this have to be considered must-win for them. But the Spireites have been inconsistent all season and that hasn't shown much sign of changing recently, with a 1-0 defeat to Cheltenham sandwiched in between wins over Bristol Rovers and Dagenham & Redbridge. And manager Paul Cook seems likely to keep faith with the side which beat Bristol Rovers 2-0 last weekend thanks to goals from Jay O'Shea and the Ivorian Armand Gnanduillet – there's a player that Radio Oxford's Nick Harris will hope isn't playing!

Liam Davis could return to the side after recovering from illness which ruled him out last weekend, coming off the bench on Tuesday. And Jon-Paul Pittman could be available for selection again after missing most of the season through injury. One player who will definitely be missing is Max Crocombe, who has joined the New Zealand under-20s side in Fiji for the U20 World Cup qualifiers.

Several members of the current United side count Chesterfield among their former clubs. Andy Whing spent a brief spell on loan at Saltergate during the 2009-10 season and Peter Leven (who obviously won't feature this weekend) impressed at Chesterfield in his first season in England. Perhaps most notably, Deane Smalley chose Oxford over Chesterfield after helping them gain promotion from League Two in 2010-11 and although he has failed to replicate that form here, there is a good chance that he will feature in some capacity this weekend.

The last time the two sides met was back in November when two controversial goals handed Chesterfield the points, but prior to that occasion we hadn't been beaten by Chesterfield since 1996 – mainly because the two sides hadn't met much in the intervening time. It had been more than a decade since we last travelled to Chesterfield when a struggling Oxford side claimed a surprise 2-1 win over top-of-the-league Spireites in our first visit to their new stadium in November 2010. That was followed by a 0-0 draw at the Kassam later that year, meaning that Chesterfield haven't won in Oxford since 1980. Let's hope that run continues this weekend.

From the Vaults

Oxford United v Chesterfield, 12th August 1995

Oxford kicked off the 95-96 season with high hopes of promotion once again after disappointingly falling short the previous year. The opponents on the opening day of the season were newly-promoted Chesterfield and Oxford appeared to be stuttering to a drab 0-0 draw until Chrissy Allen's effort late in the game. We all love a last-minute winner, don't we?


Also This Weekend

Of course the other big story for Oxford United this weekend is the ladies team's HUGE match against professional WSL side Everton at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday. In an effort to drum up as much support as possible the match has been designated 'Ultimate Support Ladies Day' and tickets are only £5. Be there and help support the ladies to an incredible cup win, as well as boosting the WSL 2014 bid! We'll have plenty more about this on TBFUTH over the weekend.

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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

MATCH REPORT: Oxford United 1-0 Barnet

It's amazing the difference a last-minute winner can make. I had been preparing to lay into the Oxford United team after another lacklustre home performance and then up pops none other than Michael Raynes with a goal deep into stoppage time to gift us with three undeserved points. As it happens, I still wasn't mightily impressed with what I saw tonight, but I would happily take that kind of performance in every game from now until the end of the season if the result is the same.

If you had asked me 20 minutes into the match, I would have had little doubt that Oxford would win the game comfortably. The yellows started excellently; looking dangerous going forward, chasing down every second ball and rarely allowing Barnet to get out of their own half. But for all that good play, we created very few clear-cut chances. A well-struck Damian Batt volley which went narrowly wide of the post was about as close as Oxford came in the first half, though James Constable should have done better when Barnet goalkeeper Graham Stack fumbled a corner, blazing over from just a few yards out.

The best chance of the half actually fell Barnet's way in what was their only meaningful attack of the first 45 minutes. A lovely through ball cut open United's defence and when Luke Gambin played the ball across the goalmouth from the byline Dani Lopez – Barnet's hat-trick hero on Saturday – somehow managed to miss it completely when the lightest of touches was all it needed to guide the ball into McCormick's gaping net.

After that Oxford's great start began to fizzle out and we allowed Barnet back into the match. If the Bees had been a better side, or perhaps just a more ambitious one, they could quite easily have imposed themselves on this Oxford team and taken the game by the scruff of the neck. As it happened, neither side looked confident enough to try and win the game and both seemed content to demonstrate to the other that they are a 'passing side' by playing the ball harmlessly across the respective back fours for most of the half.

The closest Oxford came to creating any dangerous situations was from dead-ball situations and we had several opportunities to craft a chance from corners and well-situated free-kicks. These were invariably wasted, to the increasing frustration of the crowd. But an impressively long throw-in from Scott Davies led to our final real chance of the first half and Constable managed to get a good shot away before seeing it blocked by Dave Stephens as it appeared to be rocketing towards the top corner.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first. Oxford should have taken the lead just moments after the restart when Constable played Alfie Potter through, but he appeared to have lost his recent goalscoring magic as he blasted the ball over when one-on-one with the keeper.

Oxford faded fast after this early highlight and the game descended into an absolutely dire spectacle in freezing conditions with the home crowd growing increasingly restless. Everything was just flat from United with passes going astray, possession being surrendered cheaply and with most of the players watching on desperately hoping that one of their team-mates would step up and do something. We looked like a side that was completely out of ideas and none of the players seemed ready to accept responsibility and make something happen themselves. Barnet, for their part, couldn't believe their luck that they would be able to stroll to a draw without having to break a sweat – the idea that they might actually win the game apparently hadn't crossed their minds.

In fairness to the visitors, they did create a few half-chances on the rare occasions that they ventured forward and twice fired the ball into the side netting – each time resulting in a lengthy stoppage as ground staff tried to fix the net, which clearly hadn't been attached properly. Another sad chapter in the unfunny farce that is Oxford's tenure at Firoz Kassam's Stadium. And Barnet did actually have the ball in the net towards the end of the match when Andy Yiadom fired in from a corner, but the referee had already blown his whistle for hand ball.

The lengthy stoppages to fix the broken goal-net meant that the referee needed to add five more minutes to play, but with the match seeming destined to be a gloomy bore draw many Oxford fans decided that they would rather head for the warm comfort of their cars. Those who remained came alive to spur the side on for one final chance after Liam Davis was fouled out wide on the left. Personally, I suspected that just as we had wasted so many other free-kicks and corners throughout the match this one would be knocked deep and would be easily dealt with once again by the Barnet defence. And indeed it was hit deep, except that this time, instead of finding the head of a defender, the ball found Tom Craddock at the back post. He nodded it back across the face of goal and Michael Raynes popped up to nod it home in the fifth minute of injury time, sparking scenes of pandemonium in a sparsely populated East Stand.

Minutes later the final whistle was met with rapturous cheers from the home faithful. Had the referee chosen to blow his whistle just 90 seconds earlier it would have been met with quite a different response. But these are the narrow margins on which football matches – and sometimes entire seasons – can turn. And with United closing the gap on the play-offs to five points and having won four of our previous five games, perhaps our luck has finally turned.

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Sunday, 3 March 2013

MATCH REPORT: Oxford United 2-4 Swindon Town

Oxford’s ladies lost for the first time since the opening day of the season as they were knocked out of the League Cup by Swindon Town. Maybe they have been distracted by their incredible FA Cup run, or perhaps they were missing the presence of captain Sahara Osborne-Ricketts who was sidelined after picking up an injury last week, but this definitely had the feel of an ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’ performance.

The opening exchanges were very even as each side tried to get to grip with the other's contrasting style of play, with Oxford playing their usual passing game while Swindon chose a more direct route. Twice United got the wrong side of the Swindon defence, only to be foiled by the linesman's flag. And the Oxford defence which had looked so strong last weekend appeared nervous when faced with a barrage of probing long balls up to Swindon's pacey front two.

It was Swindon who broke the deadlock after being awarded a soft free-kick on the left-hand side. The ball in was inch perfect and Collings rose high above the Oxford defence to power in the opener against the run of play.

The Oxford girls stayed calm after the set-back and stuck to their game and began to create some chances of their own. Striker Lauren Allison was presented with a glorious chance to level when she latched on to a beautiful defence-splitting pass from Dan Anderson, but Swindon keeper Robyn Levett saved with her legs.

The equaliser did come, however, before half-time and it was remarkably similar to Swindon's opener. A ball in from the right-hand side found Allison in acres of space in front of goal and she duly nodded in to send the sides in all-square at half time.

Oxford started the second half on the front foot, but it wasn't long before Swindon started pushing them back and United struggled to get out of their own half. And it was during this spell that Swindon retook the lead from another set-piece. A corner was cleared at the first attempt but then found its way back into the United area and onto the head of Kim Reeves and past goalkeeper Hannah Cox.

Oxford tried to find a way back into the match but never found their stride. As the game wore on they were forced to press forward more and they were punished when Swindon struck again on the counter-attack. A simple long ball through the middle of the defence found Kirsty Shell onside and she lobbed the ball over the onrushing Cox to extend the visitors' lead with 15 minutes remaining.

Oxford then finally clicked into gear and produced their finest move of the match. A great sequence of passing football completely exposed the Swindon defence before Natasha Caswell laid it on a plate for Allison, who coolly slotted past the Swindon keeper for her second of the afternoon.

But any hopes of a revival were short-lived when some calamitous defending allowed Swindon's Abbie Picton to stroll through United's right-hand side and fire in from a tight angle. 4-2 and the game was essentially over, but there was still time for Allison to miss another one-on-one and for Swindon to come inches from a fifth when a thunderous shot struck the crossbar and bounced on the line to be gathered by the grateful Cox.

The Oxford players were all visibly disappointed at the final whistle, but there were still positives to be taken from the game. We were easily the better side on the ball, but just got dragged down into playing a scrappy game which suited Swindon more. Lauren Allison looked impressive and very dangerous up front (though she needs to get a firmer grip on her temper after picking up a silly booking for backchat) and could have finished the day with four goals. And while the defeat is disappointing it's hardly a tragedy to be out of the League Cup while the league title is still up for grabs and the FA Cup campaign is still very much alive. They have to recover quickly though, as they travel to Keynsham Development next week for their first league match in a month.

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MATCH REPORT: Oxford United 2-1 Port Vale

What is it with home games against Port Vale, eh? From half-way line strikes to conceding an equalizer in the 92nd minute to scoring the winner in the 93rd minute, when Oxford United and Port Vale meet at the Kassam Stadium, the neutral is rarely left unsatisfied.

Oxford went into the game today with seven points from a possible nine, with the two wins being away from home to Plymouth and top-of-the-tableGillingham. The recent upturn in form has somewhat altered the complexion of Oxford’s season. The club have been struggling in mid-table for the majority of the season, but today’s hard-earned three points has put Oxford in a position to surge towards a play-off place by the end of the season.

Alfie Potter got the scoring underway as he latched on to former U’s centre back Darren Purse’s poor backpass before opening up his body and slotting the ball coolly past Chris Neal into the far corner to make it two in two against the top two for Alfie. An excellent finish that set the tone for the remainder of the game. Despite being a superb game of football, there were countless mistakes made by both sides.

It took Port Vale just a minute to react with a Doug Loft effort from 20 yards going just wide of Oxford goalkeeper Luke McCormick’s right-hand post. But, five minutes later Loft had re-calibrated his right foot sufficiently to guide Tom Pope’s knock-down just inside that right-hand post from 25 yards for 1-1.

Vale almost took the lead in spectacular fashion as Calvin Andrew attempted an overhead kick from the penalty spot. Unfortunately for Vale fans, he is Calvin Andrew and it rolled out harmlessly for a goal kick.

Oxford themselves could have taken the lead just before half time but Sean Rigg could not direct Liam Davis’ cross on target.

As the half time whistle went, United walked off to a ripple of applause and then a chorus of boos as the matchday officials came into view. The U’s supporters clearly upset with the referee’s decision not to award a penalty for what looked a blatant push on Alfie Potter.

The Yellows came out pumped for the second half and appeared to have been suitably motivated by the coaching staff during the break. Deane Smalley continued his tireless work rate up front, Damian Batt carried on providing an option of an overlap on the right and Josh Parker even won a header. Oxford were pushing for a goal with a barrage of corners, free-kicks and throw-ins from the feet (and hands) of stand-in central midfielder Tony Capaldi. In fact, the Vale left back was doing his level best to push Josh Parker with a barrage of shirt pulls, head-locks and even a UFC move that ended in the pair of them going into the referee's book.

Port Vale probed and Ryan Burge saw his effort tipped onto the crossbar after Jake Wright over-played, but it was Oxford that got the winner. James Constable accelerated down the right and provided a cross that Vale’s top goal-scorer Tom Pope almost turned into his own net. From the resulting corner, the ball wasn’t cleared properly by the Vale defence and the ball fell fortunately to Deane Smalley who slammed the ball between the keeper’s legs for his fourth goal of the season and what turned out to be the winner.

Oxford pressed to make the game safe and Liam Davis burst into the box after clever play from Sean Rigg only to be tripped by Ryan Burge. This time the referee pointed to the spot and Oxford had the chance to make the game safe. Sean Rigg took responsibility in the absence of first-choice penalty taker Peter Leven. He smashed the ball hard and low to Chris Neal’s right, but the Vale stopper anticipated and saved well. It wasn’t necessarily a bad penalty, it was just a saved one.

Fortunately, the penalty miss was not to prove costly as United hung on to record their first win at home since Cheltenham Town on New Years Day.

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Friday, 1 March 2013

PREVIEW: Port Vale Home (02/03/13)

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.

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