Thursday, 3 March 2016

Plymouth Preview

Oxford United travel to Home Park on Saturday to face divisional rivals Plymouth Argyle in a fourth tier promotion battle, which will undoubtedly be classed as the game of the weekend in League Two.

Head To Head
Oxford's first ever match against Plymouth was a 2-1 defeat in 1975 but have turned that around since and in recent years United have have an exceptional record against Argyle, with the U's managing to secure seven victories in their last ten meetings, drawing two and losing just one. A record that Michael Appleton will be hoping that Oxford can continue in this crucial match. We even managed to overcome Plymouth in the extremely brief Gary Waddock era, with James Constable scoring a thunderbolt to secure Waddock's first...and last win as U's boss in 2014.

Plymouth Overview
Derek Adams has taken Plymouth up a few levels since ditching Scotland for Devon in the summer of 2015. He's recruited smartly, adding Jake Jervis, Gregg Wylde and Ryan Brunt to an already strong squad which as a result has seen them spend the majority of the season in the automatic promotion places, compared to last season which was very much a scrap to finish in the top seven under John Sheridan. 

It has been summer recruit Brunt who has fired them to success this season, scoring nine league goals which has even surpassed talisman Reuben Reid, who has again spent long periods on the treatment table this season. Unfortunately for Argyle, Brunt will not only miss the game on Saturday but looks likely to miss the remainder of the season through injury as well. A huge blow to Plymouth's promotion push. However, even with the absence of Brunt, Plymouth will be a force to be reckoned with and it'll be another tough task for Michael Appleton's men to come away from Home Park with a win, something only five other teams have done this season. 

How Are Oxford Going To Line Up?
It's not been often that I've said this this season but I have absolutely no idea. Usually you've been able to guess what Michael Appleton will do but he has got a big selection headache to deal with ahead of this promotion dual in Devon. I expect to see Chey Dunkley remain in the team regardless of the availability of Jake Wright, after a superb defensive display against York on Tuesday. Kemar Roofe, who made a goal scoring return to the side from the bench midweek, is expected to start and after an energetic cameo on Tuesday it's a change I'd encourage. Alex MacDonald has been excellent this season but may find himself dropping to the bench. Chris Maguire will probably remain among the substitutes after Jordan Bowery continued his good form and netted his sixth U's goal against York, whilst Danny Hylton has impressed with a string of typically industrious performances over the last few weeks which should see him keep his place as well. There is a concern over the fitness of Joe Skarz, who has been ever present for Oxford this season and would be a major blow if he was to not be available. From what I've heard it was a precautionary substitution and I'm hoping that is true and he's available to slot into left back on Saturday. John Lundstram will be hoping to be back in frame after being ruled out of the last two matches through injury, if he's fully fit then I'd expect him to come back in but Josh Ruffels has proved to be more than adequate cover against Wimbledon and York.

It's going to be very, very tight. Two teams that have occupied automatic promotion spots for much of the campaign and two sides who now expect to see out the job and win promotion to League One. United beat Plymouth 1-0 at the Kassam earlier in the season but trying to beat them on their own patch will be a much harder task. I'll go for a narrow 1-0 win for Oxford.