Before we look at the game, could you give us a memory from previous games against the Gas?
Sorry to mention it but the 2-0 victory at home last season with a certain Matty Taylor scoring twice was rather enjoyable, just a shame there were no fans to enjoy it!
How has your season been going so far?
We finally had a decent start under Karl Robinson for the first time in his regime. A little wobble followed but we’re currently on a good run with 5 wins from our last 6 in the league plus a victory in that funny trophy that no-one talks about.
And what would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the campaign?
We have put ourselves in a good position after a third of the season, the important thing now is to continue picking up points, especially against those teams in and around us, something that has been a struggle in recent seasons.
There is a good feeling around the club with a takeover sat with the EFL waiting approval and the on pitch entertainment being of good quality. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a special season.
How is your form coming into the game?
We now sit 6th in the league after Saturday’s 3-1 win over Morecambe. This followed an outstanding performance in a 3-1 win at Burton and home wins versus Shrewsbury and Accrington. A stoppage time winner at Hillsborough at Sheffield Wednesday is arguably the moment of the season so far. The only recent blot on the copybook was a 3-1 home defeat to leaders Plymouth on 16th October.
How do you think you’ll setup for our game?
Karl Robinson and his coaching staff have openly spoken about this squad being the best he has built since being in charge which allows for a whole variety of options across the starting XI and substitutes bench. In the league, we’ve been playing a 4-1-2-3 type shape with either Alex Gorrin or Herbie Kane sitting in front of the back four.
Both of these offer very different styles with Gorrin being more of the destroyer and breaking up the game whilst Kane is the deep lying playmaker who likes to get on the ball. Against Morecambe, we saw Gorrin and Kane play due to a late withdrawal from Cam Brannagan. This set-up is very much the Robinson way and I can’t see it changing for the FA Cup even though the personnel may well do.
Any weak links in your side?
Under KR, historically we have struggled against the more physical sides but this season’s squad seem to have little more about themselves and have stood up to the Wycombe style in a 0-0 draw whilst also finding ways to beat those sides who aim to sit in and frustrate.
The back four had looked a bit wobbly since the summer departures of Rob Atkinson and Josh Ruffels to the Championship, but has steadied itself down and the return of Sam Long at right-back has contributed a lot to this.
Who are your standout players?
Standout players so far have been Matty Taylor (of course) and James Henry who both have 6 league goals to their names. Herbie Kane who is on loan from Barnsley, so we wait to find out whether he is given permission to play in the cup, has been a real star during the recent good form, a step above L1 level and someone we’ll be lucky to keep hold of after January considering Barnsley’s position and managerial change.
I expect changes from KR, he recently made 10 in the Pizza Trophy, and whilst it’s unlikely to be that many again, players like Dan Agyei, Jamie Hanson, Marcus McGuane and Sam Winnall could all come into consideration as well as some of the highly rated youngsters who have been in and around the first team squad so far this season.
On paper, and even with changes, this OUFC squad should have enough to come through this challenge relatively comfortably, but it’s the FA Cup and rotation in line-ups can sometimes cause disjointedness and patchy performances.
I’ll say we’ll win by the odd goal in 3 without particularly impressing.
Where do you think you’ll be come the end of the season?
The last two seasons have seem play-off campaigns despite poor starts. This season has seen a decent start, so have to be confident that a play-off challenge as an absolute minimum is achievable. The January window could be crucial in looking higher.