Peterborough United host Oxford United today (February 8) in a crucial Sky Bet League One match between two promotion-chasing sides.
Oxford have dropped out of the Play-Offs in recent weeks but a victory at London Road will put them right back in the mix.
A Posh victory could see them move into the automatic promotion places.
The two sides met in the second game of the season, with Oxford United coming out on top in a cagey 1-0 victory.
Ahead of the game, we spoke to huge Oxford United fan Mark Wilkins to get the lowdown on Posh’s opponents this weekend:
1) Losing Shandon Baptiste and Tariq Fosu must have been a big deal for you, do you think you can cope without them?
Losing Fosu and Baptiste is a disappointment but we recruited well in January so have effectively covered their positions. Fosu was a bit streaky after having a great start to the season but tailing off just before Christmas. I think most fans would be happy with the money made in six months on Fosu. With Baptiste, many are sad to see him leave. This was his first consistent run in the team with some big performances vs West Ham and winning contributions vs Lincoln and Wimbledon. It feels he has left too soon, but Brentford could be a Premier League team in a few months so it looks to be a good move.
2) You come into the weekend’s game on the back of an excellent FA Cup replay with Newcastle United. How were the two ties with Premier League opposition?
The two ties were pretty decent! The first match, away, saw us put in a disciplined performance playing on the break whilst keeping things solid at the back. Newcastle took both games seriously and did their homework ahead of the second tie pressuring us into error in the first half. Oxford came alive in the second half on Tuesday with a change in formation – Mark Sykes moving to the middle and the introduction of Liam Kelly. We set up an exciting finish scoring twice in the last 10 minutes with two great goals but falling short of penalties conceding with four minutes remaining of extra time. I’m sure Ferguson would be happy to see us play 120 minutes on Tuesday! Watched by a peak audience, of 4.8 million many will now be aware of Oxford’s style and players!
3) You appear to have struggled in the league since the start of the year, why do you think that is?
January was about getting through it! With injuries to Ben Woodburn, James Henry, and Cameron Brannagan we lost some of our most influential players. Add in an injury to Forde, Matty Taylor and our right back, Chris Cadden, returning to his parent club after being on loan we had a rocky month. We have nine matches through February but with players now returning. We had a decent start vs Blackpool, coming from behind to win for the first time this season.
4) Which Peterborough United players do you fear ahead of Saturday’s game?
Peterborough are stacked and have threats all over the place. Toney and Szmodics are obvious threats with Dembele also. I look forward to seeing your new addition in midfield (Taylor!?)
5) What Oxford players should Posh watch out for?
Oxford are in a good place but following Tuesday all is dependent on the fitness along with preparing for Tuesday’s match vs Burton. Dickie has been commanding at CM so far this season with Brannagan in midfield having a breakout season. Gorrin sits in front of the back four breaking up attacks. Sykes played his best match for the club vs Newcastle on Tuesday and we have a versatile front like of (potentially!) Browne, Holland, Henry and Taylor. We have plenty of threats – it will be interesting to see how we set up and what the repercussions of Tuesday were.
6) Posh fans aren’t the biggest fans of Karl Robinson after his time at MK, but what do Oxford fans think and what sort of job has he done at the club?
Robinson is a marmite figure that plenty seem to dislike! He had a dodgy start at Oxford admitting that he probably should have been sacked, but this season he has made huge progress. He is undoubtedly a good coach, has had a big influence on our academy and is a great mental health advocate. Many fans have warmed to Robinson who has the club and its success as his focus. He appears to work well in tandem with our board in creating a sustainable club that will be effectively run once they move on.
7) Posh have been brilliant in recent weeks, what do you think is the key to stopping them?
Oxford have the ability to press teams into errors. I hope we deploy this from the start, breaking up your play and using our pace on the counter. We have the ability to create ourselves and have started improving from set-pieces in recent weeks – hopefully, an area we can exploit!
8) We lost 1-0 (twice) at your place this season, what do you think the score will be this time around?
We were fortunate to play you at the start of the season before everything had clicked for you but I certainly go into the game optimistic that with players returning from fitness and a clear focus on being in the mix come the last 10 games of the season that we will be able to pinch a result. We play better against footballing teams – I’m going for a 3-2 win.
9) Finally, predictions for the end of the season, who’s going up automatically, who’s getting Play-Offs, and who’s going down?
There is carnage in League One this year. Rotherham looked very strong and would be backing them automatically along with Coventry. I can see Oxford, Sunderland, Portsmouth, and Peterborough in the Play-Off mix with Tranmere, Southend, and Bolton relegated. February will be a big month, someone will go on a run and come from nowhere!
Thanks go to Mark for his answers to our questions!