Oxford United travel to WHAM Stadium in Lancashire to play Accrington Stanley F.C. in an EFL League One match this Saturday, 26 September 2020. Accy comes in off of a 2-1 loss at the hands of Burton Albion, who got a late winner from John Brayford in the 87th minute. Oxford, who came into the season as one of the favored teams to be promoted, has stumbled out of the gates to an 0-0-2 start, including an 0-2 defeat at home against Sunderland last week. Given that Oxford only missed out on promotion last season after losing in the playoff final, I think it is fair to say that few people expected them to be not only winless, but also goalless through their first 2 matches. Oxford scored a healthy 61 goals (1.74 per game) last season, and return both of their top scorers in Matty Taylor and James Henry, so the end of the scoring drought for The Boys From Up The Hill is likely just around the corner. Accrington's defense has been solid this season, having picked up a clean sheet in their first match, and only conceding a second time last week due to a turnover very deep in their own zone. Young goalkeeper Toby Savin has been outstanding in stopping 7 out of 9 (77.8%) of the shots he has faced so far. The biggest concern for Accrington this week is going to be injuries, as today it was announced that not only will Mo Sangare be out an additional 6-8 weeks after missing the last match, but this afternoon midfielder Tariq Uwakwe posted that he will also be unavailable for the match. This could especially create problems for Accrington at the wing position since Sean McConville is still a few weeks away from returning.
💻 #asfc season ticket holders, have you obtained your free iFollow Stanley code?— Accrington Stanley FC (@ASFCofficial) September 25, 2020
Please contact the club on 01254 356950 to receive your free code.
The shop will close at 4pm today, but you will still be able to contact the club tomorrow morning.
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💬 #asfc manager John Coleman has confirmed that midfielder @MoSangare44 is expected to be out injured for at least six to eight weeks.— Accrington Stanley FC (@ASFCofficial) September 25, 2020
The full interview from his pre-@OUFCOfficial press conference will be available to read on the club website shortly. pic.twitter.com/riDlvKUmL6
With these injuries I would almost be certain that we will see a new formation this week because Uwakwe and Sangare were both key cogs in making the 3-5-2 work in the opening weeks. The biggest question to me is whether we will see Thomas Allan get his first start on the wing, or if John Coleman will move Dion Charles, who played wing last year, to the number 11 position, and move Colby Bishop into the starting line-up next to Ryan Cassidy at forward. Bishop has been working his way back from a preseason injury, but has subbed on the past 2 weeks.
Listen To Our League One Week 2 Review/Week 3 Preview
Injuries have played a big part in Oxford's slow start as well, and this week manager Karl Robinson pointed to their having "one of the biggest injury lists" as part of the reason for their slow start per Oxford Mail. Cameron Brannagan, Sam Long and Sean Clare have each started the first 2 matches for The Yellows, but it is possible that all three will be unavailable Saturday against Accy. Josh Ruffels suffered a shoulder injury in Week 1 against Lincoln City, missed last week, and is not expected back on Saturday. Alex Rodriguez Gorrin, who started 29 matches for Oxford last season has not played this season so far, and is expected to be out a couple more weeks. Sam Winnall, who came over from Sheffield Wednesday during the offseason is still working his way back to match fitness after missing the preseason. One of the "better" pieces of injury news they got this week was that defender John Mousino, who injured his knee in the EFL Cup against Watford will not need surgery, and miss "only" the next 4-6 week. Forward Dylan Asonganyi has not played for The Yellows yet, but was noted to have tweaked a hamstring this week to officially make their injury list the same length as a receipt from CVS Pharmacy. On the positive side, Jamie Hanson, who has been out all year so far, returned to training this week and may be available.
Accrington Stanley Vs Oxford United Vital Information
This match can be viewed on Accrington Stanley iFollow in the United States, at 7:00 AM U.S. (Arizona Time)/3:00 PM GMT.
Referee appointments have Ross Joyce as the referee, with assistants Barry Gordon and Conor Brown, and the fourth official Bradley Hall.
I have not found records of any players suspended for either club.
This will be the 19th meeting all-time between Accrington Stanley F.C. and Oxford United. In the previous 18 meetings, Oxford has won 7, Accrington has won 5, and there has been 6 draws. The most recent meeting was a 3-0 win by The Yellows at Oxford on 25 February 2020. When the clubs last met at WHAM stadium on 5 October 2019, it ended in a 2-2 draw. Prior to last season, Accrington had won 3-in-a-row over Oxford, and 5 of the previous 7.
The Lead Story
There biggest news coming out of Accy this week was the signing of midfielder Rhys Fenlon to a 2-year-contract. The 18-year-old Salford native is someone the club is extremely familiar with, as he had been with the Accrington academy from the under-8 level up until 2016. Since leaving Accrington, he had gone on to Man City (in spite of having grown up a Manchester United supporter), and most recently spent the past two years with Burnley.
He fits the recent mold of Stanley signings that have trended toward youth, youth, and even more youth. Theoretically, he will fill the spot in the squad that was opened up by the departure of Sam Finley, but seems to have a different skill set. He plays wing and attacking midfield, and in an interview with Luke Pearson of @ASFCOfficial, Fenlon said, "I've got a lot of pace that I can bring into the team and I'm very good technically". When Fenlon makes his first appearance for Accrington, it will also be his first professional appearance, so statistical information on him is limited. However, with the injury to Uwakwe, that first appearance could very well come against Oxford, although I would expect that if he does play this week, that it would be in a substitute role.
Accrington Stanley Player Snapshots
The big veteran name that is still missing from the lineup for Accy is McConville. The 31-year-old McConville is one of just 3 Accrington players over 30, along with Mark Hughes (33) and Seamus Conneely (32). In fact, 27-year-old Stephen Sama is the only other player over 25-years-old on the squad. McConville had 5 goals and 2 assists in 15 starts before his achilles injury last year, and 15 goals and 7 assists in 2018-2019. Those numbers suggest that he is still a few years away from going to the announcers booth full time (where he has spent this year thus far).
However, it should be noted that even before the achilles, he had been hampered by nagging injuries all year. He is also a player that is very heavily reliant on quickness and cutting ability, so that makes this a particularly difficult injury for him to return from. It's possible that the extended time off has given his body time to heal up from the nagging injuries, and that he will come back in 2018-2019 form. It's also possible that as a guy that already has over 27,000 professional minutes on his legs that the injuries could become a regular thing. Of the current players on the squad McConville definitely holds the title of "Mr. Accrington Stanley", and this club desperately needs his experience and leadership back on the pitch, perhaps even more than it needs his goals and assists.
💬 “We are getting some of the long terms back slowly, Sean should be back in a couple of weeks and that would be like having a new signing.”#asfc manager John Coleman gives an update on his squad ahead of @OUFCOfficial’s visit to the Wham Stadium.— Accrington Stanley FC (@ASFCofficial) September 25, 2020
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Listen To Our Interview With Sean McConville (9/3/20)
I must report the passing of a member of the Stanley family, long time season ticket holder, and lifetime fan Peter Bell. Sadly, I never got a chance to speak with Peter or have him on the show, but send my best wishes to his family.
❤ Everyone at #asfc is saddened to hear of the passing of lifetime fan Peter Bell.— Accrington Stanley FC (@ASFCofficial) September 25, 2020
Peter attended all home and away matches, and he has enjoyed watching this season’s games on iFollow Stanley.
Our thoughts are with Peter’s family and friends at this desperately sad time. pic.twitter.com/CwjBFXn6FY
Last season, Joe Pritchard was thrust into a starting lineup full time after McConville's injury. More of a natural number 10, he has also had to play more on the wing in McConville's absense. He has performed admirably for the most part, however if there was one critism last year it was that he scored just 2 goals in 20 starts. That being said, the 2 that he did score were absolute screamers, to the point that there became a bit of a joke about Joe Pritchard only scores worldies being playfully bantered about. Pritchard came to Accy on a permanent deal last season, after spending his youth career at Tottenham academy.
Last week, he was the lone Accrington goal scorer, in what was clearly the most mundane finish of his Accy career so far. However, I think if he has 10 finishes like that this year, as opposed to the 2 worldies last year, that he would take that all day long. He is a brilliant passer who had 5 assists last season. He has yet to register one this season, but has already hit 9 crosses into the box over the first 2 matches. Watching him since last season, he is becoming a more consistent player each week, and I think he will assert himself as a team leader by late season. In our preseason preview episode I mentioned that he is a player that Accrinton desperately needs to have take a big leap forward in his 2nd year with the club. So far, he looks primed to do just that.
🙌 Great work by @RossySykes and a composed finish from @pritchard_joe!— Accrington Stanley FC (@ASFCofficial) September 20, 2020
The match highlights from #asfc’s 2-1 defeat to @burtonalbionfc are now available to watch on the club’s official YouTube channel.
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Listen To Our Interview With Joe Pritchard (10/3/20)
The other biggest story this week is that it was announced that not only this Saturday's game, but games for the foreseeable future will be played without fans in attendance. In a recent article on the club's official website, Managing Director David Burgess said: “The welfare of the supporters, players, stewards, staff and the community as a whole is the most important outcome of any decision made. Therefore we have followed the advice of the Government and other authorities on the safety and welfare of everyone and so the game v Oxford will be played behind closed doors.” This was not all that unexpected, as the tentative plan had been to start allowing limited fans back into matches starting after October 1st. However, while Burgess's statement applies only to Saturday's match, a September 22nd report by the BBC says that sports leagues have been prepared to plan on not having fans in attendance through the winter, and the March is not the earliest target date for spectators to return. Per the article by Dan Roan; Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a range of new restrictions for the country, including confirmation that plans to allow fans to return to sport from 1 October would not go ahead."
Looking At The Opposition: Oxford United
If the season had never been interrupted by COVID-19 there is a good chance I would be writing about some other team right now. After a slow start to the season, The Boys From Up The Hill were certainly on an uphill trajectory by March. Their final match before the shut down, a 3-2 win over Shrewsbury, had been their 6th-in-a-row, and their 7th straight unbeaten. They were also unbeaten in 10 of their last 11, and really flexed their muscles with such results as 5-0 at home against AFC Wimbledon, and the above mentioned 3-0 result over Stanley in late February. Further evidence of their squad strength came in the form of Callum Johnson, without much hesitation, answering that Oxford was the best team Stanley had played so far when we interview him on 14 February 2020 (11 days before the 3-nil loss). We asked a number of other players in subsequent interviews if Oxford was the strongest team that they had faced, and while other teams were mentioned, no one disagreed that Oxford were class. However, when things kicked backed off, and straight into the promotion playoffs, they were able to get past Portsmouth in a tightly contested 2-legged tie. They ended up running into a hot Wycombe team, and an even hotter goalkeeper in Ryan Allsop in the final, and were denied promotion despite 77% possession and a 5-4 edge in shots on target. This season, it appears that as I discussed with Tony Robinson on this week's League One preview episode, that Oxford seems to be experiencing a bit of a "playoff loss hangover". It will be one of the stories of the season, or at least the early season, whether Oxford are able to return to last season's form, or if this is going to be a season long struggle. That is likely to largely ride on how quickly key players mentioned above return to health. That being said, Taylor had 13 goals last year, and Henry had 12, and both of them are playing and healthy, so sooner or later one of the is going to find the back of the net, and once that happens it could really open up the flood gates. Ruffles lead the team in minutes played last season, and is a staple in their defense at left back, so if he doesn't play on Saturday then look for Accrington to attack the left side in his absence. Goalkeeper Simon Eastwood was very good in 29 starts last season, stopping an even 70% of the shots he face and allowing only 1.17 goals per 90 minutes. This season, he has struggled a bit through the first 2 matches, stopping just 4 out of 8 shots he has faced.
Pre match thoughts from the Gaffer as we head for @ASFCofficial on Saturday: https://t.co/JhTcGL0Iia— Oxford United FC (@OUFCOfficial) September 24, 2020
See the full interview in iFollow, along with a fascinating Preview Show in which Finance Director Tim Davies discusses the impact of covid on football and the U's . #OUFC
Accrington Stanley vs Oxford United 20/9/20 Gambling Analysis
If you read my betting picks on a regular basis then you know I had my worst week in awhile last weekend. I had rated the Burton vs Accrington game as a stay away game, which I generally don't worry about being wrong on a stay away game. The reason I say that is because if I say stay away, then that means stay away, the house is betting on that you are going to make the couple bushels of corn bet even on week's that you are guessing because of the appeal of the action. However, those bushels add up, and true pro will have the willpower to only bet when the line is truly saying something. That being said, to be fair my pick of a draw on the Burton vs Accy game looked set to come, but that is neither here nor there. The big loss was on my Phoenix Rising pick, where first the first time in recent memory I gave a "bet the farm rating" on a Phoenix win, and missed. The mistake I made in that game was going against one of the cardinal rules of gambling, which is never to go against a must win team. This is a combination of hindsight being 20/20 and the reality of the fact that no matter how good any system is, it wouldn't be called gambling if it were a sure thing. Just ask (this guy). Well if never bet against a must win team is the first cardinal rule of gambling, the second one, is when you are in an off period, push away from the betting window for awhile. A lot of people are tempted to double up on their bets after a bad week, and I am here to tell you that at least half the casinos on the Las Vegas strip were built off money from those people. So, what does that mean for this game. Exactly that. No farms, no bushels, not a tractor tire, or one single kernel of corn to be wagered on this match. Not only is this what I call a cool off week, but this line is telling me that the fine folks at DraftKings are just trying to get money in on all 3 sides, and have absolutely no idea what is going to happen either. If I had to bet, it would be on the draw, but please don't do it this week.
Accrington Stanley vs Oxford United Prediction
One of the most interesting things that happens tomorrow will actually be about an hour before the match when the lineup cards are made public. With both teams battling multiple key injuries, a lot of the story could be decided by who is ultimately available for their respective squads, and which manager is able to piece together the most effective lineup. Last week's match against Burton started off a bit like a boxing match between two counter punchers, where neither guy wants to swing first. I could see a bit of that happening in this one. Oxford is clearly a team that is out of sync offensively, and because offense is so much about rhythm, it is important for Accrington to make sure they don't allow The Yellows to find their offensive rhythm on Saturday. Uwakwe has been a primary creator on offense, so in his absence the pressure is really going to be on Pritchard to service the forwards, and for Allen, Charles, or whoever ends up starting on the left wing to create scoring chance from that side. Accrington is back at the WHAM Stadium where they looked like world beaters against The Posh, but Uwakwe and Sangare both played massive roles in that win. I think we are going to see an Oxford team desperate to get any points at all, and I think Accrington might struggle to find more than one goal. Cassidy has been starting as the right side forward, so at some point I expect he will take advantage of Ruffels absence and find a goal for Accy. Taylor has been a tremendous thorn in the side of The Reds, scoring a brace against them back in February, I will say he gets the Oxford goal, and both teams are happy to play out the clock for a point apiece.