'Playing with a tremendous sense of calmness'... Oxford boss on Blues
- Credit: PA
Ipswich Town travel to Oxford this afternoon, both teams looking to keep their good run of form going. MIKE BACON takes a look at the Blues' opponents.
The story so far
Oxford endured a decent start to the season, losing just one of their first five League One games.
And it was at the end of September that saw them really lay a marker down for the promotion race after the Yellows began a 13-game unbeaten run that saw notable results including victories at Sheffield Wednesday, MK Dons and Plymouth.
They doubled Wednesday and thrashed Gillingham 2-7 in Kent, before a slight wobble in February and March saw them lose to Bolton, Accrington and Portsmouth.
Oxford have been there or thereabouts all season and with them sitting second in the current last-six League One form guide, with five wins and one defeat (to Pompey), they are in good shape as they prepare for a tough run-in.
After Town this weekend, Oxford have to face Plymouth, MK Dons, Sunderland and Rotherham in four of their final seven games. Town sit fifth in the last-six game form guide.
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Robinson on McKenna
Oxford boss Karl Robinson comes up against Town's Kieran McKenna for the very first time this weekend. And he's looking forward to it.
“I’ve not managed against their manager before, so it’s another first for me,” he told the Oxford Mail.
“When any manager comes in it’s a clean slate, but when they’ve been there for a while you end up with a fixed mindset. Kieran will be the same in three or four years.
“Those players have an opportunity (with a new manager) and the bar raises because of that.
“They’re a well-coached team, a well-organised team playing with a tremendous sense of calmness, which I like."
Oxford have been hit badly by injuries in recent weeks.
Robinson was without nine players for last Saturday’s trip to Shrewsbury Town, but should have more options today.
He is already without forwards Sam Baldock and Marcus Browne. The Yellows brought both players in during the January transfer window.
Jack Stevens is available again after falling ill the night before the win at Montgomery Waters Meadow and will challenge Simon Eastwood for a place in the team.
James Henry has returned to training after recovering from a groin injury, but it is unsure whether Ciaron Brown and Sam Long will be fit to return, although likely one of them at least will start.
Record points needed?
The race for promotion to the Championship is set to be as tough as it has been for many seasons, even decades.
Oxford are in a better position than Town right now for at least a play-off spot, but even they know they are far from guaranteed a top-six place, despite currently sitting in fourth.
Seventy-four points has long been seen as a total that would secure a play-off spot in League One.
Indeed, the last time League One’s sixth-placed side, which is realistically what Ipswich are gunning for and Oxford would be pretty happy with, ended the season on more than 74 points was 2009/10, when Huddersfield Town racked up 80.
This season’s table is more likely to resemble 2002/03, though - a frightening thought!
That year, Tranmere Rovers missed out on 80 points, with Cardiff City pipping them to sixth place with 81. Ipswich are currently on 60, with eight games left. Oxford are on 68, also with eight games left.
What the bookies say
You pays your money and takes your choice this weekend, with it a tight call among the bookies about who are favourites for this one. And that's hardly surprising. Both teams are in good form, but Oxford are at home. Town have struggled to see off top six sides, although some bookies have them as slight favourites. A draw probably looks a good bet.
TOWN WIN: 8/5: OXFORD WIN: 17/10: THE DRAW: 21/10
Did you know?
It wasn’t until 1878 that women were allowed to come and study at the University of Oxford! They were finally allowed to be awarded degrees in 1920 and it was only in 1974 that all colleges let women enter and stay. Oxford University now has roughly even numbers of male and female undergraduates.