Oxford – can we keep it tight?

At the start of February last season Oxford were in ninth position and eight points off the play-offs. Having sold Tariqe Fosu and Shandon Baptiste to Brentford on the last day of the window it looked as if they were settling for a mid table place. However, after losing at home to Portsmouth, they went out and won their next five games so that, by the time the season was abandoned on March 14th, they sat comfortably in fourth place.  Maybe there is a chance for Charlton after all?

They were beaten by Wycombe in the play-off final and, having come so close, Karl Robinson must have been very disappointed with his team's start this season because in mid December they were in the relegation places. There followed an extraordinary run of nine wins from ten games which propelled them up to seventh by early February with the only blemish being a close (2-3) defeat at Doncaster.

That was a very impressive achievement but all the wins were against teams in the lower half of the table. Their most recent four games have pitted them against sterner opposition and it shows. No disaster, but three draws (0-0 at Ipswich; 1-1 at MK and 0-0 at home to Peterborough) plus a home defeat (0-1 to Portsmouth) have seen them drop to tenth. One goal in four games is not promotion form but on the other hand their midweek draw with in-form Peterborough meant that they were the first team to stop the Posh in seven games. Their top scorer is Matty Taylor with eleven. Olamide Shadipo has eight and they have recently signed Elliot Lee on loan from Luton. And yes, his father Robert is the Valley Pass guest for the game.

Our only win at the Kassam Stadium was in the FA Cup in 2014 when Oxford were a League Two side. Two Yann Kermorgant goals and one from Danny Green saw us through 3-0 after the fright of a 2-2 draw at The Valley. In the three league games up there Johnnie Jackson, Tariqe Fosu and Lyle Taylor have put us in front every time but we have failed to see it through. The 1-2 defeat last time was our only stumble on the run-in to Wembley two years ago.

A 1-0 win at Wigan on Tuesday stopped the rot for us but was it evidence of a corner being turned? There were encouraging signs of improvement in defence and Jake Forster-Caskey's return was welcome. There is further good news in that Lee Bowyer has said that Chuks Aneke will be available for Saturday. But Oxford will be a much sterner challenge and a 0-0 draw would be a good result ahead of the fearsome prospect of home games against Northampton, Shrewbury and Bristol Rovers to come.

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