Boss on U's testOnce upon a time, many moons ago the Town met Oxford United in the top-flight, at a time when they would also meet in an important two-legged League Cup semi-final.
That particular season – 1987/88 – the two even shared what seemed 100 goals in four matches. Okay, a slight exaggeration, but 25 – 5-2, 7-4, 1-1, 2-0 – is still pretty impressive, and you get the picture.
But then it all went wrong. Just five years ago the two clubs – both winners of the League Cup – found themselves together, side-by-side in non-league football. Instead of Arsenal it was Alfreton; and sat-nav guidance to Eastbourne, not Everton.
However, there was light at the end of the tunnel for United. Chris Wilder masterminded the Yellows’ revival, helping to haul the club of the Conference in what was the Town’s first season outside of the Football League.
And, although the U’s faithful might have driven disconsolately back to Oxfordshire after a last-gasp corner kick – that saw the Town snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on a cold February night in 2010 – it was they who would go on and have the last laugh as. Three months later they were celebrating a League return after a Promotion Final triumph over the Town’s nemesis York City.
Today, though, in 2014 and after the Hatters heroic title triumph last term, the two clubs are back on a level playing field.
It’s a game John Still is relishing.
And despite goal difference keeping the U’s out of the bottom two, the boss is, as always, expecting another toughie in the League 2 battleground.
“I’ve seen match reports, and Oxford look to have done okay,” Still said at his Thursday press call. “But I’m sure there’s lots more improvement in them and, if I’m honest, I don’t envisage them being a bottom half team.
“They have got back in the league and have established themselves as a Football League club again.
“I do know most of their players, and although they haven’t started great, there’s not a lot in the games as we found ourselves.” [Oxford’s four defeats have all been by the odd goal, by the way].
Still continued: “I think this is an opportunity for them to try and push on and an opportunity for us to establish what we have done over the last couple of games which is some good performances and some good results.”
While the Town are unbeaten and impassable in defence in three matches to push them within eyeline of the Play-Offs, Still believes his team have plenty of improvement in them.
“We’re not there yet,” he said. “We’re getting there. Injuries haven’t helped but slowly, slowly, we’re getting there.
“I know that Oxford have some decent players, but we have some decent players as well, and I think sometimes it’s more about a decent team than decent players.”
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