Another Saturday, another home game for the Imps. This time we take on an indifferent Oxford United side who sit in a lowly 17th place, but the U’s should not be underestimated.
This week I got to sit down with one of the ‘League One Lowdown’ co-hosts and good friend of mine, Joe Citrone. A die-hard Oxford fan who will be making the journey north on Saturday morning. This is what Joe had to say:
1) Oxford have had an indifferent start to the current campaign. Why do you think this is?
It’s difficult to say. We ended the season with great momentum, we recruited well in the summer despite having to be patient to get the players we wanted and, all in all, have a talented and balanced squad. Therefore, I suppose you can only really look at the manager and the way he sets the team up. Karl Robinson has been quite divisive since his arrival last year but, despite a topsy-turvy 17/18 season, most fans were willing to give him a fresh start in the summer. He’s failed to really make the most of that, though. His obsession with 4-2-3-1 and strange substitutions have left many puzzled and the unrest amongst the fans is already starting to become apparent.
2) Is it fair to say that the sides away form has halted the club from being in and around the top six?
That is very true. We didn’t get an away win till February last season and, with the way things are going, it wouldn’t surprise me if we suffer similar struggles on the road again this term. It’s often like we’re a little afraid to go for it away from home and often try and settle for a point. As I said, it was the same last season and this campaign does all feel a bit like deja vu to be honest. Tactical stubbornness from the manager and poor away form – I’m sure I’ve seen this one before.
3) What are your thoughts on Lincoln City?
Lincoln seem like a club on the up and are also a side that have been successful in adapting their style of play a little bit in the last couple of years; moving away from hoofing the ball up to Matt Rhead and introducing a more attractive brand of football. It’ll be interesting to see if you can keep the momentum going after the Cowleys’ departure. I’m sure you’ll have a decent season with the players you’ve got, though. Tyler Walker was a player I really wanted Oxford to go after in the summer.
4) Former Oxford manager Michael Appleton is being tipped to take over at Sincil Bank. What do you make of this appointment?
I’m obviously a bit jealous. I imagine it’s going to be a bit like seeing your ex-girlfriend with a new man and trying to convince yourself he’s not as good as you. Except he absolutely is. Appleton brought the most enjoyable two years I’ve had as an Oxford fan and I honestly believe he’s one of the best managers this club has had. He may look like a tattooed body-builder that would break you in half for a bit of a laugh, but he’s actually a really calm and methodical thinker. He introduced an attractive, exciting and attacking style of football to the club, while also using his contacts from the top-level to help us recruit some outstanding players. He always took cup competitions seriously as well. He guided us to memorable wins against Swansea and Newcastle in the FA Cup and also led us out at Wembley in the EFL Trophy two seasons in a row. So in short, Lincoln fans should be excited. I’d advise you all to be patient because it took a bit of time before he could fully implement his ideas here. But when he did, boy did we reap the rewards.
5) This is a fixture that hasn’t been played competitively since 2011. How have Oxford changed since that campaign?
Well, Chris Wilder would have been our manager back then. Some might say he’s gone on to bigger and better things. We’ve obviously got a new manager, a new squad. A lot has happened since those days. But I guess the club will always keep finding new and inventive ways of disappointing me.
6) How can you see the game panning out? Score prediction?
I’m always going to struggle to back us away from home. Last week, we beat Tranmere 3-0 at home whilst playing some decent stuff but then backed it up with a dull and drab 0-0 draw at struggling Bolton. Therefore, I’m finding it hard to find many reasons to predict an Oxford win other than blind bias. I’ll go for a 2-1 Lincoln win, but hope I’m wrong of course.