Oxford United v Doncaster Rovers: 'They've become one of the division's form sides' - the opposition view

Doncaster Rovers will face another strong test of their unbeaten away record when they visit Oxford United on Saturday.

Friday, 11th October 2019, 12:00 pm
Karl Robinson, manager of Oxford United

Karl Robinson's side have made a steady start to the League One campaign, suggesting they could make a push for the upper reaches of the division.

We spoke to the Oxford Mail’s chief sports writer David Pritchard to get lowldown on the U’s.

Q: How do you assess the start to the season?

Tarique Fosu and Matty Taylor

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DP: Overall, United can feel pretty satisfied with how things have gone.

The first objective has been achieved – avoiding a repeat of the ghastly opening to the last campaign, which cast them into a relegation battle that took six months to escape.

They have consistently played good football, although too many goals were conceded in a costly opening month.

But they managed to tighten up at the back without compromising the attacking threat to become one of the division’s form sides.

Q: What were the expectations for the campaign? Can Oxford hope for more than in recent seasons?

DP: There is definitely an expectation United should be better than last season, which was wrecked after the opening dozen games.

But put that to one side and over the past 12 months they have had the form of a side on the fringes of the play-offs.

Realistically the objective should be to get in the pack chasing a top-six spot and see what happens.

United are ambitious, but I don’t get the sense anyone believes it is promotion or bust this season.

Q: How is Karl Robinson viewed?

DP: Good question!

The goodwill over his appointment in March 2018 vanished pretty quickly at the start of last season.

And while United were battling a crippling injury list at the time, the head coach was blamed by many for a patchy summer of recruitment.

He came under pressure, but has gradually won supporters over as results have improved.

Some still have their reservations, but it should be noted he has had to navigate through a variety of off-field issues out of his control in the past year.

There is a much calmer picture now and he should reap the benefits.

Q: What system and style of play does Robinson favour?

DP: Anyone who has seen Robinson’s previous sides at MK Dons and Charlton Athletic will be familiar with the style, although in recent games he has moved away from 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 system.

They will want to play with lots of energy, move the ball quickly and look to their flair players for the final flourish.

When it works, there aren’t many in the division who can handle it.

Q: Who are the danger men?

DP: Tariqe Fosu played his best football under Robinson at Charlton Athletic and so far the reunion has gone superbly.

The biggest question mark over the winger was whether he could show his talent consistently and six goals so far make this has second most productive campaign already.

Of the crop Robinson inherited, midfielder Cameron Brannagan and centre back Rob Dickie have become key figures.

Along with Fosu they are just 23 and if they can keep improving United will have a fight on their hands from clubs higher up the pyramid.