Oxford United have an appalling league record against Charlton at The Valley where they have played 16, lost 8, drawn 7 and won only once.
It took them five games to score their first goal in SE7 and it was fifty years before they achieved their one and only victory. This was achieved just under a year ago as Charlton spiralled down the table during a depressing February run of seven games without a win. It seemed that everything that could go wrong was going wrong. We hit the woodwork twice. The only goal of the game came from a speculative shot by former loanee Conor McAleny. Lewis Page appeared at left back while Jay daSilva sat on the bench. Chris Solly was given a straight red card in the seventieth minute. The official attendance was given as just over 9000 and there was a palpable sense of gloom over the ground. Four days later we would be beaten at home again 0-1 by Bury.
In contrast there should be a good positive atmosphere at The Valley this weekend and expectations will be high. Charlton left the pitch buzzing after the win over Walsall two weeks ago and the additions of Michal Zyro and Sullay Kaikai will have given the squad a shot in the arm. The retention of Ezri Konsa could make the difference between securing a play-off place and dropping away towards mid table as his versatility provides cover across the back and reduces our reliance on Lennon or Dijksteel. However, we shouldn't forget that the Walsall game was a classic example of how narrow the margins are between winning and losing and it is a long time since Charlton dominated a game or saw one out in comfort.
Oxford will arrive on Saturday in some disarray, having sacked their Spanish manager Pep Clotet after their 1-2 home defeat by bottom club Bury on January 20th. His assistant - Derek Fazackerley - has taken charge of first team affairs until his successor is appointed. Although they find themselves in a comfortable mid table position that defeat by Bury must have shaken their confidence given that Bury had not scored a goal in their previous eight games. And, of course, it is only five weeks since that humiliating 0-7 home defeat by Wigan. Their away record is mixed - impressive wins at Plymouth and Peterborough earlier in the season but recent defeats at Bradford and Walsall. They have taken steps to bolster their defence this week by bringing in two young players on loan - Todd Kane from Chelsea and Ashley Smith-Brown from Manchester City. Up front the main danger is posed by Wes Thomas - a much travelled journeyman striker who has recovered from a bad injury last year to score 8 in 21 games this season.
For the first time in months Karl Robinson is spoiled for choice and has some interesting selection decisions to make. Places on the substitutes' bench which he notoriously failed to fill a few weeks ago will now be the subject of some competition. A home win might still leave us outside the play-off places but would set up the clash with Bradford on February 13th as a real test of promotion ambition.