Match Preview | Oxford United v Argyle
Oxford United might have expected a win against promotion contenders Ipswich Town to reinvigorate their season, but it has not worked out that way.
The 2-1 win over Ipswich on 21 January preceded defeats away at Wycombe Wanderers and Burton Albion, followed by home losses against Barnsley and Shrewsbury Town. The rot was topped with a 1-1 draw against Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday.
This leaves Oxford in 16th place in Sky Bet League One, with 36 points from their 31 games, having picked up 18 points at home and away.
The U’s are managed by Karl Robinson, who is approaching five years in the hotseat at the Kassam Stadium. The former MK Dons and Charlton Athletic boss has steered Oxford to 12th, 4th, 6th and 8th placed finishes during his tenure at the club.
Oxford’s leading goalscorer this season is Cameron Brannagan, who has ten goals in all competitions, including seven in the league. Kyle Joseph has six league goals, plus one cup strike.
It was a busy January at the Kassam. Oxford brought in five players; three on loan, two permanently. The loanees were attacker Ateef Konate, from Nottingham Forest, and two Hull City players: left-back Stuart Fleming and steriker Tyler Smith. They also added young defenders Teddy Mfuni and Stephan Negru, but neither have yet made an appearance.
Heading out of the door were several players on loan, as well as experienced defender John Mousinho, who took the manager’s job at Portsmouth. Perhaps most surprisingly, on deadline day, striker Matty Taylor departed on loan to fellow League One side Port Vale.
Argyle and Oxford met at Home Park early in the 2022/23 campaign. In September, Argyle emerged 1-0 victors, with a goal from Morgan Whittaker. Last season, the Greens did the double over United, with a similar 1-0 home win, and a 3-1 win at the Kassam, helped by a goal from Jordon Garrick and two from Panutche Camara.
“I think everyone's surprised to see where Oxford are in the league because they've been one of the stronger teams in the division for years under Karl and their staff,” said Steven.
“They always seem to be in and around the playoffs but, this year, for whatever reason, they find themselves in the bottom half of the division unexpectedly.
“We'd be stupid to take them lightly or think that this is going to be an easy game. They are in the bottom half of the division, but it was only a few weeks ago that they beat Ipswich at home 2-1.
“I know they're in a bit of a tough run at the moment. They've lost a few on the spin and got a draw on the weekend against MK Dons, but they are still a threat.
“It was a real tough game here. It was a close game at the start of the season, so I'm sure it'll be the same and they'll be desperate to turn their form around.
“They've always been a team that can create chances, that always play nice football. They've always got good movement. That's one of the things that stands out about Karl’s teams, the rotation that they have throughout the attacking players. That takes a little bit of figuring out about how we're going to press and what we're going to do when we haven't got the ball. Then, obviously, we need to have a plan as well for when we do get the ball.
“I think there will be times where we might have spells of possession. I remember last time we played there, we defended very well then counter-attacked and scored a couple of times.”
Long-term injuries will continue to rule out Mike Cooper, Dan Scarr and Conor Grant. Adam Randell came off injured on Saturday against Portsmouth, and Steven Schumacher says the midfielder will be assessed ahead of the trip to Oxfordshire. Niall Ennis, who has missed the last two games, trained on Saturday and Monday, and will also be considered.
This game is sold out for Argyle supporters. Please do not travel without a ticket.
Tickets will be available for collection on the day of the game at Oxford, from 6.30pm, from the North Stand Away Ticket Booth.
A Strip for the Trip
Argyle will be wearing our green home kit for this game.
The game will be covered on Argyle TV, with commentary from Charlie Price and former Argyle Women's captain Katie Middleton. Both will be on hand for a pre-match show which will be available for free on YouTube from 6.45pm.
The game is available to stream for domestic and overseas supporters.