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.
Here is the situation; I am an exiled Oxford United fan in the North of England. This is for the large part not too much of a problem due to the number of northern teams that we have faced over the past few seasons – Rotherham, Chesterfield and Barrow (shudder) to name some. However, for two match days a season, it becomes a big problem. Why? I live in York and a fair number of my friends have season tickets for York City. The first fixtures the majority of us look for are the games in York and at the Kassam. In all honesty, I can often be found getting my football fix at Bootham Crescent or joining the ‘YCFC FunBus’ on away day adventures and very much enjoying it – not Alfreton though (long story) . But the build up to these two matches is always full of shocking banter (teetering on the edge of abuse) and generally the friendship I share goes out of the window for the 90 minutes or longer depending on the result.
As like last season’s fixture, I spoke to a couple of my friends to get their views ahead of Saturday’s match. Ian Jones and Joe Pinder provided their thoughts…
Jack: It's almost 10 months since the "thoroughly entertaining" 0-0 draw in Oxford. What has changed at York City since then?
Ian: The new manager bringing in many new faces and a more 'traditional' style of football instead of Mills' 4-3-3 tika taka which on some days saw us play sensational and others was a never-ending nightmare. Things behind the scenes have changed as we become more 'professional' with changes to the training ground and the introduction of a Prozone statistician.
Joe: Players, management, staff and most importantly short sponsors. Highly unlikely more than 2 players that started that game will be in our line-up will start on Saturday.
Jack: Has Nigel Worthington been an improvement on Gary Mills? (League position would suggest not)
Ian: Although league position currently isn't great I honestly believe that Worthington is the right man. We would have gone down under Mills and Worthington can attract (and get) a much higher calibre of player.
Joe: Yes, at the time of the last Oxford fixture you really couldn't see where the next win would be coming from. I personally think riding the positivity of promotion enabled us to have a good start last season and that masked a lot of problems. Worthington read the situation wrong in the summer and brought in a lot of big, strong, physical players - he quickly realised his error however and has added technical ability to the squad.
Jack: What's the aim for the rest of the season?
Ian: No doubt there will be upheaval in January with Worthington bringing in more of his own players. I believe will we certainly pull away from the bottom and finish slightly higher than last year - 12th to 14th.
Joe: As close to mid table as is possible, but survival is the aim for any bottom half club really isn't it.
Jack: Who is the best team you've seen so far this season?
Ian: I hate to say it but it's Fleetwood. Great squad of players. Amazing what money can get you...
Joe: Nobody has blown me away, Fleetwood were very organised, but there isn't a standout team I've seen yet. One of about five or six teams could easily win the title and I expect a few surprises in the play-off spots come the end of the season.
Jack: Who are the key players for York?
Ian: Josh Carson could and should be playing at a higher level and we will be lucky to have him further than the end of this season. Very quick and good with both feet, unlike certain ex-York wingers who I won't mention....
Joe: Luke O'Neill - on loan from Burnley, can time a tackle as good as anyone I've seen for York and fantastic going forward - leading our assist chart.
Josh Carson - Good young player with bags of technical ability, always likely to create something from either wing and works hard defensively. Top player in an average side.
Wes Fletcher - looked to be creating a great partnership with Ryan Bowman before Bowman’s ban, a constant nuisance up front. Still raw but could be a top player for us giving time to develop a partnership.
Jack: If you had to take three of Oxford's current squad and put them in your starting XI - who would they be?
Ian: I really like Danny Rose, I think he's got a lot of quality and simply because our defence is either horrifically bad or over the hill I'd take Raynes and Mullins as they'd walk into our defence.
Joe: Jake Wright, Johnny Mullins, Danny Rose.
Jack: Score Prediction?
Joe: We owe you for 2009-10. A play-off final reversal of 3-1 York and many unhappy Yellows including a certain Jack Shoemark hopefully!
I’d like to thank Ian and Joe for taking the time to answer these questions and hope they enjoy the game on Saturday but don’t enjoy the result.