Can Chris Wilder seal a return to League 1 for the U's?
Oxford United want to bring League 1 football back to the Kassam Stadium, can they do it in 2013/14? To find out when we'll be facing Chris Wilder's side, check the official site on June 19th.
Since the turn of the Millennium, Oxford United have been on a journey that has seen them relegated twice and promoted twice. The first relegation came in 2000/01 under the guidance of firstly Denis Smith, and then David Kemp. The U’s lost 33 out of 46 games that season as they slid into Division 3. The next season was almost as bad, ending 21st out of 24, a place above the relegation zone. They consolidated in the league before suffering relegation into non-league football in 2005/06. The club finished second the following season, losing in the play-offs. In 2009/10, Oxford won promotion back to the Football League, beating York City in the play-off Final at Wembley, 3-1. This coming campaign will be the club’s fourth successive season in League 2.
Sheffield-born Chris Wilder has been in charge of Oxford United since 2008, taking over the reigns after Darren Patterson’s departure. Prior to moving to the Kassam Stadium, Wilder was assistant manager at Bury. He’s previously held down the top job at Halifax Town, where he spent six years in charge, and Alfreton Town, where he was manager from 2001 to 2002. As a player, Wilder came through the youth ranks at Southampton and then went back to his hometown to sign for Sheffield United. The 45-year-old had spells on loan at Walsall, Charlton Athletic and Leyton Orient before transferring to Rotherham United in 1992. He went on to play over 100 times for the Millers before playing for Bradford City, Sheffield United again, Northampton Town, Brighton & Hove Albion and finishing his playing days at Halifax in 2001.
In goal for the Yellows will be the reliable Ryan Clarke. The ‘keeper signed for Oxford from Northwich Victoria in 2009 and has had a loan spell at Blues in 2004, playing one game for us when he made a temporary move from Bristol Rovers. The 31-year-old has also played for Salisbury City, Forest Green Rovers and Kidderminster Harriers. Defensively, ex-Brighton men Andrew Whing and Jake Wright are likely to be in the centre, although former Rotherham player Michael Raynes will also expect to play. Midfield will see wingers Alfie Potter and Sean Rigg looking to play a big part for Oxford in 2013/14, with former Crawley Town player Scott Davies in a central midfield role. Up front, Deane Smalley will want to improve on the five goals he scored last season.
James Constable will pose a threat to League 2 defences. The 28-year-old scored 14 times for the U’s last season and has scored a total of 60 goals in just over 150 appearances for Oxford and was formerly the club’s captain prior to Jake Wright taking the armband. Constable has previously had spells with Kidderminster Harriers, Walsall and Shrewsbury Town after starting his career with non-league Cirencester Town.
It was another campaign of highs and lows for Oxford in 2012/13 as they finished in ninth place, four points off the final play-off spot. An excellent start saw the Yellows win their opening three league games, but then lost five games in a row in September. Despite winning the final three games, without conceding a goal in this sequence, the U’s just missed out on the top seven.
Chris Wilder hasn’t wasted much time in disposing of players with a number already out of the door. Veteran, Michael Duberry, Damien Batt, Luke McCormick, Simon Heslop, Harry Worley, Tom Craddock, Liam Davis, Jon-Paul Pittman, Justin Richards, Tony Capaldi and Peter Leven were just some of the names that were released at the beginning of May. Wilder soon tied down the likes of Andrew Whing and Deane Smalley to new deals and snapped up former Bournemouth midfielder Jonathan Meades.
BLUES vs. OXFORD UNITED
Home: Blues 1-0 Oxford United
Ryan Leonard scored the only goal, four minutes after coming on, heading a Michael Timlin cross past Luke McCormick with five minutes remaining.
Blues: Bentley, Clohessy, Spillane, Cresswell, Phillips, Barker, Timlin, Hurst (Leonard, 81), Laird (Reeves, 81), Corr, Assombalonga (Lavery, 67)
Unused: Bentley, Straker, Prosser, Eastwood
Away: Oxford United 2-0 Blues
Blues played for over an hour with 10 men as Michael Timlin saw red at the Kassam Stadium. Blues held out until the 54th minute when Tom Craddock turned in Alfie Potter’s cross, adding his second with three minutes remaining.
Blues: Belford, Clohessy, Straker (Barker, 77), Cresswell, Phillips, Timlin, Hurst (Hall, 65), Leonard (Assombalonga, 65), Spicer, Ferdinand, Tomlin
Unused: Smith, Prosser, Harris, Benyon
JPT: Oxford United 3-3 Blue (Blues win on penalties)
Blues triumphed on penalties at the Kassam Stadium back in January with Dan Bentley the hero. Tyrone Marsh, and then Tom Craddock quickly cancelled out Barry Corr’s early goal. However, after half time Blues hit back with Corr adding his second and Sean Clohessy scoring in the 54th minute. It looked as if Blues would hold out for the win until Sean Rigg tapped in with a minute remaining. The game went to penalties, and after Bentley saved from Alfie Potter, Elliot Benyon stepped up to send Blues through.
Blues: Smith (Bentley, 90), Clohessy, Straker, Cresswell, Phillips, Barker, Timlin, Hurst, Woodyard (Prosser, 86), Corr (Benyon, 86), Tomlin
Unused: Leonard, Martin
Oxford United are 4/1 to win promotion this coming season.