With just seven games gone so far the current League Two season may still be in its infancy, but this weekend's meeting of first and second already seems to be shaping up to be a monster of a match. Chesterfield, the only other unbeaten side in the division, come to town looking to firmly establish themselves at the top of the league and the result of this game could go some way to determining the outlook at the top of the table for quite a while after. Victory for Chesterfield would put them seven points clear of us, while if we come out on top there will be just a single point separating the two sides.
The Spireites have been imperial form at the start of this season, with six wins and one draw so far, their best start to a season for more than a century. That solitary occasion when Chesterfield have dropped points came a month ago when they were held to a 2-2 draw at Rochdale. Since then they have gone on to string together a run of four straight victories. In contrast, of course, we have only won one of our last four matches (a very impressive 2-0 victory away at Burton) and haven't won at home since Bury were the visitors in our second match of the season.
But there are still plenty of good reasons to be hopeful ahead of this match. As Chesterfield's recent results show, they're not a side to sit back and play for a draw away from home and they will obviously come into the match confident of getting a result. This could actually play into our hands, as probably the best counter-attacking side in the league, and the usual problem of breaking sides down at home should be less of a problem this weekend.
What could be a problem, however, is the quality that Chesterfield boast throughout their ranks. Former Premier League player Ian Evatt has struggled to win a starting place, while experienced striker Gary McSheffrey is another new recruit after making his debut from the bench in last weekend's impressive 2-0 victory over AFC Wimbledon. They've further strengthened their squad this week with the signing of Ollie Banks from FC United of Manchester for an undisclosed fee. Top-scorer Gary Roberts has been the star of the show for Chesterfield so far this season, picking up the Player of the Month award last month ahead of Alfie Potter. Another player to watch for the Spireites this weekend is Ivorian striker Armand Gnanduillet, who has already popped up with important goals against Southend and Portsmouth after signing from French side Poissy during the summer.
|Picture by Jon Whiles Photography|
This of course leaves us with just two strikers available for this match in Dave Kitson and the injury-plagued Deane Smalley. And although Smalley's fitness has been doubtful in recent weeks, expect him to play a big part this weekend against his old club. He rejected an offer from Chesterfield in the summer of 2011 after helping them win promotion, opting for a move to Oxford instead. Andy Whing is another to have formerly featured for Chesterfield, making 11 appearances on loan at Saltergate from Brighton in the latter part of the 2009-10 campaign. On the other side of the divide is Sam Togwell, who made four undistinguished appearances for the yellows in 2004 on loan from Crystal Palace. He has since carved out a decent career for himself, with stints at Barnsley and Scunthorpe before joining Chesterfield last year.
Oxford have never beaten Chesterfield at the Kassam – although the two sides have only met there on two previous occasions. The first of those was a rather unexceptional 0-0 draw in the 2010-11 season and that latter was one we'd probably rather forget. The Spireites ground out a 1-0 win in what was a turgid game as United struggled to get going, giving Chesterfield a double victory after their controversial2-1 home win earlier in the season. But before we start to feel that all the omens are against us, let's remember our first trip to Chesterfield's new home when the then-table-toppers were toppled by an Oxford side on a miserable run of five defeats. Football's a funny old game.
From the Vaults
Oxford United v Chesterfield, 12th August 1995
Oxford kicked off the 95-96 season with high hopes of promotion once again after disappointingly falling short the previous year. The opponents on the opening day of the season were newly-promoted Chesterfield and Oxford appeared to be stuttering to a drab 0-0 draw until Chrissy Allen's effort late in the game. We all love a last-minute winner, don't we?
You can find this and many other old OUFC matches in our VIDEO VAULT!
Also This Weekend
The youth team look to build on last week's 2-0 victory over Newport County as they make another long trip down to the south-west to face Exeter City. Victory this weekend would see the young yellows leapfrog their opponents, who have made an identical start to the season as our lads with two wins, a draw and a defeat from their opening league games.