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West Ham United v Oxford United - Match Preview

Filed: Tuesday, 24th August 2010
By: Preview Percy

If you take an infinite number of monkeys and give them word processors it is said that eventually they will produce one of the classics. Unfortunately we couldn't afford the monkeys so here's Preview Percy to run his eye past our League Cup opponents Oxford United....

Next up we play host to Oxford United from Division 4 (or “League 2” as the blazers insist on calling it). The visitors currently lie in 18th place in the nascent league table having two goal-less draws (away at both Burton and Wycombe) and a 2-1 home defeat to Bury leaving them with two points. The lack of goals in the league contrasts strongly with the 6-1 home victory over Bristol Rovers in the previous round of a competition that they actually won back in 1986. Heady days.

We haven't actually met them at the Boleyn since we shaded a tight defensive game 5-3 back in what we used to call Division 2 in 1992/93. We went down 1-0 in the reverse fixture at their old home, the Manor Ground. They've not been our most frequent of opponents, our paths having crossed a mere 14 times before. For what little it's worth we lead the head-to-head stats 8-4 with two draws.

This is their first appearance in the competition for five seasons, having spent that time in the Conference. In league terms they are a relatively young club having been elected to Division 4 (as it was properly called back then) in 1962 when they replaced Accrington Stanley. In one of those neat little coincidences that permeates the football world, Stanley were the club that replaced Oxford back in 2006 when they were relegated.

Oxford are currently managed by Chris Wilder who came on board from Halifax Town back in 2008 and led them back to the Football League last season by way of a 3-1 win over York City in the play-off final, having finished in third place. Also on the payroll as coach is former Hammer Andy Melville who played 17 matches as part of the 2005 promotion squad.

Having been promoted it comes as no surprise that the visitors have brought in a few new faces as part of their bid to maintain their league status. Thirteen players have come in as a matter of fact. One of these was former Hammer trainee Mitchell Cole, who, following his release from Chadwell Heath, went to Grays Athletic, Southend and Stevenage Borough, with whom he won the Conference last season.

However, the star man last term was James Constable, whose 26 goals earned him both the players' and supporters' player of the year awards. He made it a hat-trick by winning the Conference award. Constable netted twice in the last round, as did new signing, midfielder Simon Heslop. Constable's fellow striker Matt Green is rated “highly doubtful” for this game having picked up a knock against Wycombe. Damian Batt will also miss out with Ben Purkiss likely to replace him art right back.

Another new signing (well sort of) was midfielder Alfie Potter. This is a brilliantly old-fashioned name for a footballer – so much so that it would have come as no surprise had Barnstonworth United featured amongst the players' former clubs. As it happens Potter spent all last season at Oxford on loan from Peterborough United. Potter appeared as a sub in the play-off final scoring the third goal that rubber stamped their promotion and his loan spell was converted into a full transfer during the close season.

Oxford have something of a super sub in the form of 19 year-old midfielder Sam Deering. Blessed wit pace, he is currently in the bosses' bad books for turning up late for two matches running. The tubes will be running for this match so he'll have to come up with a better excuse should he wish to avoid the further wrath of Wilder.

League Cup matches are notorious for being used by managers to give fringe players a run out. It will therefore be interesting to see which players Grant “rests” for this one and which he picks, as it may give an insight into the pecking order as the boss sees it. Matthew Upson is unlikely to be risked however, following the boot in the face that Saturday's ref somehow missed despite all the blood and the fact that he was staring straight at it. Winston Reid may start in his place. Another we probably won't see is Diamanti who, it appears is on his way back to Italy. Arrivederci is, I believe the expression. Der Hammer won't be risked while Behrami will also be given a bit longer to recover. We may therefore see the likes of Kovac starting if Noble and Parker are asked to take it easy.
Similarly up front it would not come as much of a surprise if Benni McCarthy were given a start in a bid to prove that he is worth a place ahead of Victor Obinna who is being linked with a move from Internazionale.

I felt rather sorry for the team on Saturday. With just a little more composure in front of goal we could have gone in streets ahead at the interval, instead of which ref Marriner became the latest official to turn a blind eye to Davies' thuggery, an (in)action which turned the game. The team therefore ought to be looking for something of a morale booster in this one.

Whichever side we put out this ought, on paper, to be a win. Except that we are, of course talking of West Ham for whom nothing is straightforward. The draw is organized so that at this stage of the competition we will always face a team from the lower leagues and such is our traditional form against such opposition even the tv companies don't bother covering us live in such matches anymore – “West Ham lose to lower league opposition” is right up there with “Sam Allardyce is fat” as a headline. On the other hand we really ought to be too strong for Oxford on this occasion surely?

I'll therefore keep my optimistic hat on for the prediction for this one and I'll go for a (possibly nervy) 2-1 win to send us one step closer to Wembley.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: N/A

Danger Man: James Constable – the prolific striker will be up for this one – there again they all will.

Referee: Mr J J Linington – no, me neither.

Daft fact of the week: In their pre-league days up to 1960 they were known as Headington United and had the rather strange nickname of “The Boys From Up The Hill”. Which must have been a sod to get into a decent chant.

Travel tip: Whilst the District Line is, for once, open, supporters from south of the river should be aware that the Blackwall Tunnel Southbound bore is due to shut at 9pm. Which leaves you the Rotherhithe Tunnel, Dartford Crossing or – if you're quick – the last Woolwich ferry at 10pm. Good luck!

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Serbian Hammer
08:47AM 24th Aug 2010
''These buyings and sellings should have been finished long ago. And by now we should have had a formed team. We don't have that and I feel we will experiment throughout the season, which is a very bad thing.

Tonight fat Benny will play.. why? He will never be in form again, just put Sears in there and let him develop.
Boa Morte will play too... why? He is in last year of his contract, put Stanislas there and let him develop too.
There are examples like these in every position, we just need to remove the deadwood and let young players take the bite!''

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