Fixtures are coming thick and fast for Latics, and tonight brings one of our toughest opponents in Oxford United. Leam Richardson’s men will be looking for a vast improvement on their performance against Cheltenham Town, whilst Karl Robinson’s side come into the game off the back of a 7-2 demolition of struggling Gillingham.
The reverse fixture was a real ding-dong battle that we came out on top in, so Oxford will be well up for it and searching for revenge.
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Leam Richardson made a pretty significant change of personnel at the weekend when he dropped Stephen Humphrys in favour of new signing Josh Magennis, and unfortunately it didn’t have the intended effect. The introduction of the target man encouraged Latics to favour a long ball style of play, something they have steered away from in recent weeks and seen great success in doing so.
However, Oxford play a much more open style of football than Cheltenham so having a striker capable of occupying their centre halves might leave room for other attackers to profit. This is something Wycombe did to great effect against Oxford a few matches ago.
Latics are likely to be without talisman Will Keane after he hobbled off with what looked like a hamstring injury on Saturday, but we were all delighted to see Callum Lang introduced in his place after his own injury scare.
Deadline day signings Glen Rea and Jamie McGrath won’t be available for selection but are set to be introduced to Wigan fans before Tuesday evenings match.
Oxford United bring goals. Having scored 10 in their last 2 matches, including 4 penalties against Gillingham, Latics can expect to be tested in their defensive third. This was the case in the reverse fixture, Latics were cruising at 2-0 when all of a sudden Oxford came to life and netted 2 quick goals.
Oxford attempt an average of 14 shots per 90, with an average of 5 of those shots hitting the target. Striker Matty Taylor is in fine goal scoring form, and is supported well by Oxford’s attacking midfielders in their free flowing 4-3-3 formation.
But for all the threat they pose in attack they do struggle keeping the ball out of their own goal. Oxford concede an average of 1.18 goals per game, and with Latics’ goal scoring talents (Saturday excluded!) we will be looking to make Oxford pay for their defensive frailties.
The absence of midfielder James Henry would be a blow for United, with Oxford’s medical staff set to assess the fitness of the 32 year old before the match. The Yellow’s will welcome back midfielder Herbie Kane following his 3 game suspension, whilst former Latics man Marcus Browne will be unavailable having only joined the U’s on deadline day.
Player to Watch
Cameron Brannagan is my pick for Oxford United’s star man, although there are many other quality players in their side. I’ve gone for Brannagan because of the influence he seems to have on all parts of Oxford’s game.
Oxford have won 1.84 points per match that Brannagan has been involved in, the second highest total for players with over 20 appearances for the U’s this season.
An all action midfielder, Brannagan registers 1.28 key passes per 90, 2.56 shots per 90 and 2.32 tackles per game (success rate of 68%). His performances this season attracted huge interest from championship side Blackpool in the winter transfer window, with a fee of 1 million pounds being rejected on deadline day.
He also scored 4 goals at the weekend, all of which coming from the penalty spot, which is pretty impressive!
Given the fact he was unavailable for the reverse fixture Latics will have an even harder task now they have to come up against the 25 year old Liverpool academy graduate.
Very simple; GOALS! I think whilst both sides would probably take a point from this match they’ll still look to impose themselves positively in attacking areas. The key battle will take place in midfield, whichever side can get the upper hand in that regard will give their side a brilliant platform to build on. Keane and Henry will be big misses for both sides and I see this one ending all square.
Latics 2-2 Oxford United