Blues Host Oxford Aiming to Upset Form Book
Friday, 19th Feb 2021 13:08
Town host eighth-placed Oxford United again looking to end their dreadful form against teams challenging towards the top of League One.
The 11th-placed Blues have beaten only Accrington, Crewe and Plymouth of the sides above them but with Stanley the only team in the division’s upper echelons when they met.
Defeating Oxford will be a tough ask with Karl Robinson’s side having been on the charge since December having made a poor start to the campaign following last season’s 2-1 play-off final defeat to Wycombe Wanderers.
Town have been unable to put a run together since the opening weeks of the season when they won five of their first six to top the table with manager Paul Lambert's job hanging by a thread as a result.
The Blues have won just one of their last six, three of their last 10 and four of the last 14. At home, they have won only twice in their last nine.
“I think they've done well," Lambert said when asked about Oxford's form. “I think the time we played them [at the start of December] and it ended 0-0, we got absolutely slaughtered for getting a 0-0 there, and that just shows you the difference between the size of the two clubs.
“No disrespect to Oxford, but Ipswich is a huge club. Karl's done really well, and he did well at MK Dons as well so I didn't think they were going start the way they did because they got into the play-offs last year.
“They've kept most of the guys there, so I didn't think they [would start as slowly as they did]. As everybody will tell you, there's still a long way to go, 20 games to go, but they've been on a really good run.”
Lambert says Oxford’s form is an illustration of where momentum can take a team: “All you need is one win and if that one victory gets you to turn the corner, then hopefully that's what happens, but all it takes is one win and one result.”
He added: “I thought they were a good side last season, even when we went there and drew 0-0 the last time.
“The games have always been hard and close with us and them, and I don't expect this one to be any different.
“I think we'll have a close game and for us to beat them, we'll need to play well, and for them to beat us, they'll need to play well.
“We have to try and get that result and we have to try everything we can to get that result. What Karl's done, I always think he's done well where he has been. I've known of him for a long time.”
Asked about confidence in his squad following Tuesday’s flat performance as the Blues drew 0-0 with Northampton - their only stalemate other than the game at the Kassam Stadium this season - Lambert said: “Do you know what, they’re a good group, they’ve just been getting on with it.
“I think I’ve said before, we don’t try and make the place really downbeat and all that sort of stuff.
“What happens here should always stay in here [at the training ground]. Regarding attitude-wise, everybody’s frustrated at not winning and all that, everybody is, everybody’s in the same boat. But that’s my job to keep them upbeat.
“We go into this game, we’ll be upbeat and we’ll be ready for it, this game, that’s for sure.”
Lambert seems likely to stick with keeper Tomas Holy but with a trip to second-placed Hull City on Tuesday, will probably rest one or two players, while Flynn Downes will be unavailable due to his two-game ban.
Luke Matheson will probably continue at right-back with either Myles Kenlock or Stephen Ward on the left.
Lambert could opt to rest one of his centre-halves, Luke Woolfenden and Mark McGuinness, and recall skipper Luke Chambers.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell could move back into the deeper role in Downes’s absence with Teddy Bishop and Alan Judge appearing likely to return to the XI and Josh Harrop, who made his first start since October as he made his full Blues debut on Tuesday, dropping to the bench.
Up front, Troy Parrott could again start as the lone central striker, although James Norwood could be in with a chance if the former Tranmere man is considered ready following his recent hamstring problems.
With Gwion Edwards unfit, Freddie Sears will probably be on the left and Luke Thomas on the right unless the on-loan Barnsley man isn’t over the knock he suffered on Tuesday, in which case Jack Lankester could come into the team for his first start since December.
Oxford are the division’s form team having lost two of their last 17 in all competitions, including Tuesday’s 2-0 Papa John’s Trophy loss at home to Tranmere.
In the league they have lost one in 13 and recently went on a run of nine successive victories in all competitions.
“We go there in good form despite losing on Tuesday night,” manager Karl Robinson told his club’s official website.
“We have just been watching the chances back against Tranmere and there were a lot of them. We didn’t play well but we played well enough to win if we had been that bit more clinical.
“We have the players to create and take chances and it was just a massively frustrating game for all of us.
“But we have to bounce back straight away. There are 11 weeks left and we have 20 games. That will fly past because it is so condensed but we are one point off that top six and we still have a wonderful opportunity.
“No game is ever easy and we have to make sure we are right for every single game we have left now.”
Reflecting on last season’s corresponding fixture, which his team won 1-0, he said: “We got the win, and it was important but they missed a sitter before our goal and three or four more really good chances.
“So everyone talks about a great performance but if one of those goes in then it’s very different.”
Oxford are expected to have forward Eliot Lee available again having missed Tuesday’s cup tie due to a calf problem.
Defender Sam Long is a doubt with a hamstring injury, while midfielder Marcus McGuane is closing on on a return from a thigh issue.
Historically, the Blues have had the better of the U’s, winning eight (six in the league) of the games between the teams, drawing seven (seven) and losing six (six).
Away from home overall, including their disappointing start to the campaign, Oxford's record reads won six, drawn two and lost six.
Town and Oxford played out a dull 0-0 at the Kassam Stadium in December with the home side coming closest to breaking the deadlock.
Blues keeper David Cornell pushed a James Henry cross on to the post in the first half, while Town, who hit their first effort on target in the 90th minute, went nearest to scoring when Jon Nolan shot over on 75.
The teams last met at Portman Road in February when Matty Taylor’s goal a minute before the break saw Oxford United to 1-0 victory over 10-man Town.
The Blues dominated the first half but were unable to find a goal and were hit by a sucker punch just before the break.
Town huffed and puffed for the most part in the second half and had Kayden Jackson red-carded for an alleged stamp in injury time.
Saturday’s referee is Marc Edwards from Tyne and Wear, who has shown 72 yellow cards and no red in 20 games so far this season. Edwards will be taking charge of his first Town match.
Squad from: Holy, Cornell, Matheson, Ward, Kenlock, Chambers (c), McGuinness, Woolfenden, Dozzell, Judge, Huws, Harrop, Bishop, Lankester, Thomas, Sears, Edwards, Parrott, Norwood, Drinan.
Photo: Matchday Images
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