Meet Town’s opposition: Leaky Oxford have yet to keep a clean-sheet in league
- Credit: Archant
Football writer Carl Marston casts his eye over Oxford United, who entertain Ipswich Town this evening
It is high time that Ipswich Town won a league match on Oxford soil!
Jason Dozzell and Tony Mowbray both scored in 2-1 win at the old Manor Ground, in 1997, but that was a League Cup tie with centre-half Mowbray bagging the winner in extra-time.
In nine league visits to Oxford, though, Town have only managed five draws and lost the other four, including last season’s first-ever visit to the Kassam Stadium, the new home of the O’s since 2001.
That goalless draw, on a Tuesday night on January 14, 2020, will always be best remembered for the dreadful weather conditions, with strong winds and driving rain, rather than for any excitement on the pitch.
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Oxford have only recorded a couple of home league victories, although they have only played five times so far at the Kassam.
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A home fixture against Crewe was postponed because of Covid-19 concerns at the beginning of October.
That particular game was called off just 35 minutes before the scheduled kick-off, following the news of Crewe player Omar Beckles’ positive test for Covid-19.
It was rescheduled for a fortnight ago, with the Railwaymen inflicting a 2-0 home defeat on their Oxfordshire hosts.
The O’s, who are managed by former MK Dons and Charlton Athletic boss Karl Roobinson, have also lost at home to Sunderland and Swindon Town, in addition to Crewe, but have beaten both Rochdale (3-1 in early November) and MK Dons (3-2 in October) at the Kassam Stadium.
Matty Taylor has had a career of ups and downs, an interesting tale of a striker who has emerged from the non-league ranks to be a real force in the Football League.
The 30-year-old is Oxford’s leading scorer with five goals, and he is the one to watch tonight.
Born in Oxford, it didn’t work out for Taylor at his home town club during his first stay. He managed just seven appearances as a substitute in the National League Premier, over two seasons, before dropping down the pyramid to play in the Southern League with Didcot Town and then North Leigh.
But scoring at a prolific rate, in the lower leagues, ensured a return to non-league’s top tier with Forest Green Rovers and then Bristol Rovers, helping the latter to return to the Football League (in 2014-15) at the first attempt with 21 goals.
The following season, his first in the Football League, he bagged an impressive 27 league goals for Rovers, the highest tally of any striker in the Football League, with a second successive promotion secured on the last day.
Three years in the Championship followed, at neighbours Bristol City, but Taylor returned to Oxford United at the start of this year, initially on loan, before signing a two-year deal this summer.
This season, he has netted a brace in a 4-1 win at Accrington Stanley, and also scored in the wins over MK Dons and Wigan.
He also hit the target in last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat to local rivals Swindon Town, where late goals by substitutes Tom Broadbent and Tyler Smith ended a run of seven successive derby victories for the O’s, a run stretching back 19 years.
Conceding goals has been the Achilles heel for Oxford this term. In fact, only two clubs, Burton Albion (28) and Swindon (26) have leaked more goals than the O’s (23 from 13 games).
They have only conceded more than two goals once (3-1 defeat at Gillingham), but tellingly have yet to keep a clean-sheet in 13 league outings, a worrying statistic. Their only clean-sheet has come in the Papa John’s Trophy.
That is the reason why Robinson’s men are struggling to replicate their successes of last season, which saw a fourth-placed finish and an appearance in the play-off final, where they lost 2-1 to Wycombe Wanderers.
Jordan Obita arrived three weeks ago, after a fruitful 10 years at Reading. The experienced left-sided specialist played 163 games for the Royals, before being released at the end of last season.
He started against Swindon on Saturday, while another recent arrival, winger Olamide Shodipo, came on as a substitute.
Shodipo is on loan for the season from Championship club QPR. The 23-year-old had a spell on loan at Colchester United in early 2008, but only started twice under then-boss John McGreal.
Midfielder Sean Clare, who moved from Hearts in September, is available after suspension, but striker Sam Winnall misses out through injury.