Scout File: Oxford United (H)

Credit Graham Burrell

It seems an age since the double act of Hopper and Scully put two past Oxford at the Kassam Stadium, writes Tom Morton.

That was back in mid-September, and there are big changes for both teams today at the Bank. The most recent one, of course, is the U’s sacking of Karl Robinson. He has been with the club since 2018 and is one of their longest-serving managers. His departure came after a run of eight games without a win for Oxford.

Former Imps boss Michael Appleton is rumored to be in the running as a replacement but the U’s have not made any public statements since Robinson’s sacking. So in the opposition dugout will be existing coach Craig Short. Short briefly managed Notts County in 2010 and also has had spells as a coach or in recruitment roles with Derby and Blackburn Rovers.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Poor Form

Oxford’s run of form recently has certainly been poor. Since the new year they’ve won only twice (and drawn once) in eleven games. In that time period, they scored only seven times, with four of those goals coming in their two wins. It’s a very poor run of form that has seen them slip to seventeenth in the table and real risk of a relegation battle.

Naturally the change in manager goes one of two ways. Either they continue the decline, at least for a bit, or the relief in the squad inspires a resurgent form. Certainly, it’s not a game any opposition would relish. That said, Robinson appeared well-liked in the dressing room and the U’s have yet to name a replacement. So my money is on “the same old” in this case.

Statistically, the game is a bit close to call, with Oxford actually looking very similar to ourselves on paper. For example, they manage an average of eleven shots per match with a conversion rate of eight percent. Their top scorer (Cameron Brannagan) is on eight, like House, and their second top (Kyle Joseph) is on six, like Diamond. We sit 15th and 16th in the Away form table with the only real difference being us conceding one goal less.

Credit Graham Burrell

Physical Team

In September I joked that Oxford players were generally 6ft by 4ft. Although broadly this is true, the U’s are a well-built and very physical team who aren’t afraid to step into tackles and put their weight about. That might be a risk for us because we have struggled to take control against the more bolshy teams (and to be fair, even against much weaker opposition). 

Oxford didn’t add much to their squad in the transfer window. Barring a couple of loan signings from Hully City, who have barely played, there is little to report. Most of their poor run came after the window which is just an unfortunate order if you’re a U’s fan. They have loaned out regular striker Matty Taylor, who has managed just three goals this season, and replaced him with Tyler Smith. 


Watching highlights, Oxford are not about pace or skill. Although equally not route one either. They like to dominate the middle of the pitch and try to dictate play physically. Whilst they are not a team that seems to thrive on the break, they do press high and take opportunities as they fall. Expect to see some frantic action in the penalty box as they keep the press on during attacks.

Oxford lineup (h) 22/23

For us, going forward, I hope we play a little bit more vs. the long balls. Oxford are genuinely a tall team, they don’t have too many players under six feet. So I worry that we’ll struggle to win headers and second balls. Theirs is a defense that I think needs to be run at.

Todays Game

I’d say today is a game we need a result. We’re getting closer and closer to losing the moniker of “unbeaten at home”, it will happen at some point. Whilst the progress has been there, the last couple of games feels like a step back. That, coupled with Oxford being the sort of team we’ve found challenging this year, makes me nervous.

Credit Graham Burrell

With hopefully a return of House and Montsma to the starting lineup things will feel less makeshift. Despite our overall shorter team, Montsma and Paudie O’connor put Oxford to shame and will easily be the tallest players on the pitch. And House’s aggression and domination on the front line will take the game to them.