Saturday, November 24th 2012
With such a growing momentum and on the back of three straight wins in League Two as well as a free scoring style coming to the fore, it’s a perfect time for local derby with a big turnout expected for our closest League Two rival geographically this season. The Cobblers sit just a point outside the playoff positions and three points from the top three so there’s a massive incentive for a group of players who are improving as a cohesive unit by the week.
Oxford, though, possess the thing that all Cobblers fans fear in a winless run. Already this season we’ve seen Bristol Rovers and Barnet end such runs against us and although we are in a much stronger position than before either of those fixtures it still means that there’s a cautious confidence about the weekend. It should be a cracker of an atmosphere with both sides needing the win for different reasons.
U’s on the hunt for return to form…
Since defeating Wycombe and Barnet in the league and cup respectively, Oxford have been on a run of four games without a win. Defeat at home to Dagenham and Redbridge was followed by a goalless draw with Torquay and a 2-1 loss at Chesterfield. Last weekend saw them come from behind to lead at Barnet – a quick repeat of the cup outing – until Jake Hyde scored his second of the game for the Bees to earn his side a point.
Double striker blow….
Chris Wilder was dealt a major blow last week when he lost both Deane Smalley and Tom Craddock to month long injuries. Craddock is missing with a cracked rib while Smalley has had an operation on an abductor muscle, meaning that both will miss this game and the next two or three following it. Craddock is the club’s top scorer this season with ten, including four in the 5-0 win over Accrington Stanley a month ago.
Oxford manager Chris Wilder was with the Cobblers as a player but only played once during a short spell on loan from Sheffield United in 1998.
Liam Davis had a longer stint with Town, playing over seventy games for the club over a three year period between 2008 and 2011 and scoring eight times.
Oxford-born Cobblers winger Chris Hackett began his career with the U’s and played over a hundred games for the club before heading north for Hearts in 2006.
Oxford will be without the aforementioned striking duo of Smalley and Craddock while Liam Davis will face a late fitness test. Michael Duberry and Damien Batt are getting closer to a return but neither are expected back for this one. Meanwhile, defender Johnny Mullins has been recalled by Rotherham United from his loan spell at the Kassam Stadium.
The Cobblers added right back Chris Smith to the squad ahead of the weekend as he joins from Swindon Town. Smith won a 2011 ‘Win a Pro Contract’ competition to earn his place at Swindon but has found it tough to break into their first team this season. He goes straight into the squad for the Oxford game. Elsewhere, Clarke Carlisle should start again after helping the side to a clean sheet against Morecambe on Tuesday night but Joe Widdowson picked up his fifth booking of the season during that game so misses out on this one with a one match ban. There’s no new injury concerns for Aidy Boothroyd with David Artell, John Johnson and Luke Guttridge out until January.
Previous Six Meetings…
06/04/12: Cobbler s 2-1 Oxford (League Two)
A cracking Good Friday match under the Sixfields lights saw Luke Guttridge score inside the first minute to give the Cobblers the lead. Christian Montano equalised before Neal Kitson saved his second penalty in as many games to keep us in it. Right at the death, Brett Williams chased down what looked like a lost cause, cut inside and curled in one of the most important goals of the season to earn a simply massive three points on the way to Football League safety.
17/12/11: Oxford 2-0 Cobblers (League Two)
This was my wedding day so I barely knew we were playing this match until my best man reminded me with a sneaky score update during dinner. Those that were concentrating saw Town comfortably beaten thanks to goals from Tom Craddock and Deane Smalley.
22/01/11: Cobblers 2-1 Oxford (League Two)
Andy Holt gave the Cobblers the lead at Sixfields going into half-time but Tom Craddock pulled things level two minutes after the break. Leon McKenzie sealed a big win, though, by putting in the winner with a quarter of the game to go.
23/10/10: Oxford 3-1 Cobblers (League Two)
Alfie Potter scored early on in this one but Leon McKenzie equalised on fifteen minutes. Josh Payne would give the U’s the lead back right on the stroke of half-time and when John Johnson was sent off for a foul in the area on ninety minutes, Tom Craddock stepped up to seal the victory for the hosts.
22/04/06: Oxford 1-3 Cobblers (League Two)
One of the best away days in recent memory. The Cobblers were looking for three points to continue a surge towards automatic promotion while Oxford were clinging on for dear life at the wrong end of the table. It made for a red hot atmosphere at the Kassam but one in which Town flourished. Chris Doig finished well from a corner to slam Town in front before a quick fire double from Martin Smith and Josh Low in the second half sent a 4,000+ army of travelling fans wild. Chris Willmott got one back for United but the Cobblers held out for a memorable win. A couple of weeks later, the clubs were leaving League Two in opposite directions.
14/10/05: Cobblers 1-0 Oxford (League Two)
A close contest was won by the Cobblers as Ian Taylor scored his 100th career goal at Sixfields to cap only a second home win of the season for the club. Scott McGleish flicked on a long throw from David Hunt into the path of Taylor who nodded in what turned out to be the winning goal.
The man in the middle…
Taking charge of the clash at the Kassam is Scott Mathieson. Mathieson has shown 41 yellow cards and 4 reds in 16 games so far this season and last refereed a the Cobblers back in 2009 when we came away from Morecambe with a 4-2 victory.
I really don’t want this joyous feeling of wins to stop so I’m not going to jinx it with a bold prediction of a big win. So I’ll keep quiet and predict a safe draw that I would happily take after the recent good results. 2-2