Insider: Horrific start so costly for Portsmouth opponents Oxford
The Oxford Mail’s chief sports writer, Dave Pritchard, analyses Oxford United’s season so far...
The campaign started terribly.
Within 20 minutes on the opening day, Samir Carruthers went off with a knee problem, then Simon Eastwood collected a hand injury the following game. Both were out for three months – and then it snowballed.
Oxford collected five points from their opening 11 matches, it wasn’t a bad start but a horrific one.
Then, in mid-October, Plymouth were defeated, sparking a run of one loss in 16 matches, a spell which had been expected from this group of players.
Then, having climbed out of the bottom four, they slipped back in following three-successive defeats over the Christmas period.
With one point from their last five League One games, Karl Robinson’s side now sit 21st heading into this Pompey match.
Ambitions ahead of this campaign was to improve on last term, which looked quite straight forward having finished 17th. Maybe even involvement in the play-off chase.
Following summer upheaval, with double digits in and out, there was potential for a bumpy start. Nobody expected it to be as bad as it was.
Injuries have definitely impacted, while there have been games in which more points should have been earned. They also put a lot of faith in Sam Smith, a 20-year-old from Reading, who didn’t live up to expectations and it was cut short.
With Jonathan Obika injured, Jamie Makie is the only senior centre-forward at the club. Robinson is seeking to recruit two new faces, but so far hasn’t been able to get anyone in.
If that isn’t resolved, it’s going to be a real struggle to stay up.
A positive has been Gavin Whyte, who came from Crusaders in Northern Ireland and exceeded expectations. Many thought it would take longer to adapt.
West Ham youngster Marcus Browne has done very well, while James Henry is the 12-goal top scorer from midfield and a real talisman.
A disappointment has been the ongoing absence of Ricky Holmes, who has hardly played in the past few months.
The ex-Pormpey winger netted three times in his opening four matches and was a bit of a catalyst, but has back problems.