Doncaster Rovers: The lowdown on Saturday's opponents Oxford United

When you say Oxford United, most Rovers supporters will no doubt shake their heads in memory of that suckerpunch of injury time defeat earlier in the season.

Friday, 20th April 2018, 3:00 pm
Karl Robinson

But there will also be some surprise at the season of struggle endured by a club that very much seemed to be on the up.

As they prepare to visit the Keepmoat on Saturday, we spoke to Oxford Mail chief sports writer David Pritchard to get the lowdown on the club’s difficult campaign.

Q: Oxford have got to the magic 50-point mark now. Are you convinced they are safe?

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DP: There’s no doubt last Saturday’s win was a big step in the right direction, but I won’t be sleeping soundly until they get to at least 52.

With Blackburn Rovers to come on the final day, it’s likely to come down to today and next weekend’s home game with Rochdale.

Q: Why has this season been a struggle for Oxford?

DP: I think it’s taken a combination of factors which have seen them go backwards this season.

In no particular order: losing boss Michael Appleton to Leicester City, serious injuries to key players, diverting from a recruitment policy which had worked wonders, bad luck and a protracted takeover deal which meant two separate boards took too long to appoint a replacement to Pep Clotet.

Q: How has Karl Robinson been received so far?

DP: Very well. The club needed someone to inject some energy into the place and Robinson has done that from the moment he was appointed.

I think most supporters would agree they have seen an improvement in performance levels since the change was made, although it has taken longer for results to match it.

But they finally got what they deserved against Southend United last weekend, so hopefully safety can be guaranteed sooner rather than later and he can start rebuilding.

Q: What style of play and system has Robinson preferred so far?

DP: He likes to use wingers in a 4-2-3-1 system, but has been limited by the make-up of United’s squad.

So using the resources at his disposal, they have often played a 4-4-2 with a diamond in midfield. The squad has plenty of talent in the middle of the park and this system means more of them can play at the same time.

Q: Who are the danger men for Oxford?

DP: The pick of United’s players in the second half of the season has been James Henry, who has scored six goals since mid-January, largely from a role at the tip of the diamond.

Midfielder Joe Rothwell has a big future and is someone the U’s will be desperate to tie down to a new contract, while Rob Dickie looks a terrific prospect at centre half, having joined from Reading in January.

Q: Match prediction?

DP: Hopefully United can take advantage of Doncaster being safe and get the win they need to ensure we’re back here next season. 2-1.