Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Accy-thoomp

Fixture: Oxford United 1 Accrington Stanley 1
Date: 24/9/11

Buoyed by two good away wins, Oxford faced an Accrington Stanley side struggling to find form. In a fixture yet to register a single goal, skipper Wright was suspended following his controversial dismissal at Barnet, Wilder brought Whing in to partner Duberry, skipper for the day, in central defence. So the line-up was: Clarke, Batt, Duberry, Whing, Davis, Heslop, McLaren, Leven, Potter, Constable, R. Hall. Subs: Smalley, A. Hall, Payne, Haworth, Kinniburgh.

Despite their lowly position, Accrington started really brightly and had the first chance of the game after just two minutes when one of their strikers had a shot that narrowly missed the goal. On six minutes they actually had the ball in the net when, following up a shot which rebounded off the post, the Accrington man was adjudged to be offside.

Oxford had their first chance after 10 minutes when a fiercely taken 30-yard freekick was well saved by the Stanley keeper. Again Accrington pushed Oxford back and Clarke had to be alert when he finger-tipped a long range effort over the bar. From the corner Clarke then pulled off an amazing save when their striker had a header from close range.

At the other end, following a corner, the ball dropped nicely for Heslop just outside the area, but his half-volley flew over the bar. Then Leven was brought tumbling down in the area but the U's pleas for a penalty fell on deaf ears and the referee waved play on.

On 35 minutes the end of the universe was expected as the first goal between these two sides was recorded. Hall was cynically fouled mid-way in Accrington's half earning the defender a yellow card. With the ball sat 35 yards out, Paul McLaren took a long range shot which took a wicked deflection making it loop over the goalies head and into the net!

Despite the goal, Accrington still looked the stronger side and Oxford were made to work hard to keep their lead going into the half-time break.

Oxford started the second half much as they had finished the first, having to defend resolutely against a determined Accrington side. On 53 minutes Wilder decided to ring the changes, surprisingly bringing on Payne for McLaren and Haworth for Heslop. Haworths first contribution was to pick up a yellow card and give away a free-kick in a dangerous position but luckily for us a spectacular looking overhead kick was way off target.

On a rare foray into their half, following a quick free kick, Constable saw his half-volley easily saved by the keeper. But all the pressure was at the other end on Oxford's defence and the inevitable happened when a poorly cleared ball was thumped into the net from the edge of the area.

Stung into action Potter went on a mazy run through their defence only to hit a weak shot that was easily dealt with by their defenders. The game was becoming more fragmented and there was no rhythm from either side as yellow cards were issued to both teams.

As the action stuttered from end to end both teams had efforts but failed to hit the target. With extra time being played Oxford tried to mount one last attack to try and snatch victory but a header by Duberry just went over the bar and the chance was gone.

So, yet another home game in which Oxford took the lead but ended up drawing. The result was very disappointing but fair because Accrington certainly didn't come here looking to nick a point and could probably count themselves unlucky they didn't get all 3.

U's buzzing as they see off the Bee's

Fixture: Barnet 0 Oxford United 2
Date: 17/9/11


Oxford started with the same line-up that had won midweek at Dagenham. That meant that West Ham loanee Robert Hall kept his place on the left of a 3 man attack. Another new loanee from Bury, Andy Haworth, took his place on the bench. So the line-up was: Clarke, Batt, Duberry, Wright, Davis, Heslop, McLaren, Leven, Potter, Constable, R. Hall. Subs: Smalley, Whing, Payne, Haworth, Worley.

With over 1,000 travelling fans cheering them on, Oxford won the toss and elected to kick up-hill on a pitch that evoked memories of the old Manor Ground. The U's came out of the blocks quickly and and an early attack saw Potter put a dangerous ball across the box just inches too far in front of Constable.

Unsurprisingly, with Lawrie Sanchez as Barnet's manager, the Bees took the direct route and Oxford had some tough defending to do against a barrage of long throws and lofted punts. Oxford were countering well and Potters pace was causing problems for their defence. On 20 minutes Barnet had the ball in the net but it was dissallowed after hitting a Barnet player on the arm. Then McLeod chased after a through-ball but was hauled back by Wright who earned a booking for his troubles.

On 32 minutes Oxford took the lead with a superbly worked goal. Picking the ball up in his half, Leven played Potter in on the left. His cross was half-cleared by a defender but it dropped nicely for Simon Heslop to take one touch before unleashing a 20 yard shot which whistled past the keeper and into the back of the net. Buoyed by the goal Oxford went in search of another as Hall and Leven both went close.

On 38 minutes the second goal duly arrived. If we thought the first one was good, this one was to prove even better. Liam Davis latched onto a loose ball midway inside the Bee's half. Running forward he played a short pass to Leven, continued his run into the area where a delightful flick by the midfielder dropped perfectly for Davis to volley home. Such was the tight angle that at first we all thought the ball had somehow gone through the side-netting but as we watched the players in wild celebration we all realised that it had indeed gone in. Later, replays confirmed what a sweet strike it was.

Oxford had one more chance in the half to extend their lead when Hall put Potter through on goal but a defender just managed to nick the ball off his toe and out to safety.

Kicking downhill in the second half Oxford had Barnet pinned back in the early stages with Constable, Potter and Hall all going close. Barnet managed a rare chance which called on Clarke to make a flying save whilst at the other end Constable was denied a goal when he goal-bound shot was toe-ended away by the keeper.

Barnet then missed a glorious chance to get back in the game when their striker, in front of goal, headed the ball into the ground only to see it bounce over the bar. Next a free-kick by Leven from the edge of the area went just inches wide. Smalley replaced Constable on 80 minutes and had a glorious chance to get his first United goal when a ball from Potter put him through on goal. With just the keeper to beat his shot was blocked and the ball went to safety.

Minutes before the end of normal time, Barnet had their best chance to score when a long range shot through a crowd of players left Clarke stranded but fortunately for him the ball hit the base of the post and rebounded back into play. In stoppage time came the most contentious decision of the game. Wright made a tackle on former U's striker, Deering, just out side the area, whereupon the latter man went down like a sack of spuds and proceeded to writhe on the ground. Already booked, Wright was shown a second yellow card and dismissed. Miraculously Deering sprang up showing no ill effects at all! Cheating little ****

Despite being reduced to 10 men, Oxford comfortably saw out the remaining minutes to record a great victory and, more importantly, 3 points which take them up to 7th and into the playoff positions.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Brewers catch United on the Hop

Fixture: Oxford United 2 Burton Albion 2
Date: 10/9/11

Former United striker Justin Richards returned to punish Oxford as they failed to secure all 3 points in a disappointing afternoon. Constable returned to the side after recovering from an injury replacing Smalley who was left out of the squad following an illness. Leven returned to the starting line-up with Hall dropping to the bench. So the side was: Clarke, Whing, Duberry, Wright, Davis, Heslop, McLaren, Leven, Potter, Constable, Guy. Subs: Batt, Pittmen, Hall, Worley, Payne.

Burton started the stronger of the two sides in the opening exchanges and it took about 10 minutes for Oxford to get their passing game together. On 14 minutes Potter put through a lovely pass for Guy to run onto and his shot had goal written all over it only to be denied by a brilliant point-blank save by the Brewers keeper, Atkins.

Now Oxford were in their stride and had a firm grip on the game with Burton desperately hanging on. McLaren, then Guy set Potter free on the wing and his dangerously whipped cross just eluded United's forwards charging in on goal. Constable then had a shot which went underneath the goalies body only to be cleared off the line by a covering defender.

Batt replaced Whing, who limped off with an injury, and was immediately into the action as Burton sought to put pressure on the counter-attack. Burton had a penalty claim waved away whilst at the other end another great cross was met by Constable who saw his headed effort just loop over the bar and onto the top of the net. Leven then tried his luck with a long range free-kick which went harmlessly over the bar.

Burton showed their danger when a long-range shot went just wide of the goal with Clarke helplessly clawing at thin air. Half-time was approaching and, frustratingly for Oxford, all the possession and chances didn't reflect in the scoreline. Yet again Potter put in a dangerous cross low into the area only to see one of their players nearly score an own goal but being saved by the post as the ball rebounded to safety.

Finally with the half into stoppage time the breakthrough came. A cross was headed on by Duberry to McLaren who played in Alfie Potter with a delightful pass. Keeping his head he then smashed the ball past the keeper and into the net. The half-time whistle came at the right moment for Burton as Oxford, tails up, ended the half on a high but couldn't add to the scoreline.

The break did Oxford no favours and the start of the second half was a sluggish affair. Five minutes in Davis tried a 20 yard shot which forced the keeper to push it out to safety, then Guy forced a corner after his shot was well saved by Atkins.

On 52 minutes Oxford increased their lead when a delightful pass by Guy played in Peter Leven who lifted the ball over Atkins and into the net for his first Oxford United goal. We hardly had any time to celebrate when we conceded a soft penalty when Davis stupidly lunged at a Burton striker in the area. The man tumbled theatrically and the referee pointed immediately to the spot. Justin Richards then stepped up to calmly score from the penalty spot to make it 2-1.

Buoyed by the lifeline Burton upped their game and had the U's on the back foot as they pressed for an equaliser. Duberry had a golden chance to open his account for United when a free-kick by McLaren picked him out at the far post but the big defender vollied his shot over the bar.

Just 10 minutes after their penalty Burton were back on level terms when terrible defending from a corner allowed Richards a free shot at the far post which just crept past Clarke after a deflection. Just moments later they could have had their third after a sloppy pass allowed Richards through but great defending by Duberry forced him to fire over the bar.

With 15 minutes left Burton seemed to be satisfied with their point as they started defending deeper. This allowed Oxford a chance to put pressure on their defence and Constable missed a glorious chance when his header in the centre of the area from a Davis cross went over the bar. This proved to be the last meaningful effort by United as the referee blew for full time.

All in all it was a disappointing result after being 2-0 up early on in the 2nd half. The penalty decision was wrong (later backed up buy Burton's manager) but Davis was extremely naive with his lunging challenge which gave the referee the opportunity to award it.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The A420 "El Classico"

Fixture: Swindon Town 1 Oxford United 2
Date 21/8/11

The date is 24th February 1973 and a 13 year old boy has just been told by his Father that he is going to be taken to his first away game. A short journey sees them arrive at the County Ground, home of Swindon Town and local rivals to Oxford United. In a relatively easy fashion United went on to win 3-1 with goals from Roberts, Cassidy and Curran. A satisfying result for an afternoons entertainment and the 13 year old boy went home content in the knowledge that this is how it would always be. If only...

Wind forward to 2011 and that boy, me, has had to endure 38 years of frustration and, at times, humiliation waiting for that event to come round again. Halley's comet is more regular. Nine years after our last meeting (an FA Cup home win) derby day finally arrived with all the usual hope and expectation that maybe, just maybe this time we could finally triumph on the dreaded enemy's back yard.

Wilder made two changes to the starting line-up from the Shrewsbury game bringing in Alfie Potter and Peter Leven whilst dropping Asa Hall and Deane Smalley to the bench. So the starting line-up was Clarke, Whing, Duberry, Wright, Davis, Potter, Heslop, McLaren, Leven, Constable, Guy. Subs: Batt, Smalley, Pittman, Worley, Hall.

After an agonising wait for the teams to come out and being treated to the excruciating sight of the Swindon Robin mascot dancing like a bird whose Trill had been spiked with ecstacy (to the chorus of "Shoot The Bastard" echoing from the Oxford end), all the pre-match hype could be forgotten as the game got under way. Like a formula one car the game went from 0 to 60 in seconds. Potter had an early chance when fed a pass on the right hand edge of the box but his shot lacked any power and was easily smothered by the keeper.

Swindon countered immediately and were awarded a free-kick to the left of the area. A dangerous ball was well blocked by Heslop and the danger was cleared. Constable then flicked on a header to Potter who managed to get his cross in towards Guy, but the striker scuffed his shot and the ball trickled into the keepers arms. Then Potter went on an amazing run from the half-way line as he beat one man and then left the next man flailing at thin air as he flew down the right wing. Unfortunately his cross was disappointing and didn't reach Constable in the area.

On the 11th minute Oxford won their only corner of the game and boy did they make it count. Leven delivered a pinpoint cross into the box where James Constable was quickest to react, beating the defender in the air to head the ball downwards and underneath the diving keeper. The Oxford striker sprinted the full length of the pitch to celebrate wildly in front of the U's delirious fans.

Stung, Swindon immediately went on the attack to try and get back into the game. Their recent signing, big centre forward Leon Clarke had two great chances to level but first a shot then a header went wide of the target. The pressure was relentless as the reds sought an equalliser so it was no real surprise when they did so eight minutes later. The defence were being systematically pulled out of position and Potter, trying to halt the progress of their left winger, was unable to stop a cross coming in where Town's Matt Ritchie had a free header inside the 6 yard box giving Clarke no chance whatsoever. Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio showed a distinct lack of class and taste in his celebrations and was censured by the referee.

With Town in the ascendency, Oxford were struggling to pass the ball to each other and every clearance just fell to one of their players who returned the ball with interest. Clarke performed heroics in goal during this period when he firstly saved a close-range header from Leon Clarke and then made a miraculous stop from a rifled Ritchie shot which he managed to somehow put out for a corner.

Half time was getting near and our main hope seemed to be to just get in at half-time on level terms. We were occasionally getting the ball upfield but it just wasn't sticking. On one of our rare forays into their half Oxford won a freekick on the 43rd minute to the right hand side of the area. Leven once again stepped up to take the dead-ball kick and once again delivered a cross with interest. This time the Swindon keeper managed to get a hand to it but only succeeded in palming the ball in front of him where James Constable was again quickest to react to bundle the ball home.

This was particularly sweet as moments before the Swindon fans were taunting us with "James Constable is a Swindon fan". Following the goal the Oxford chant was "2-1 to the Swindon fan". There was time for a mass brawl to break out after Guy was bundled to the ground and a Swindon player was seen to kick at him. Incredibly no card was issued! Half time arrived with us 2-1 up and hoping that Wilder could tighten things out in our midfield.

The second half started where the first had finished with the hosts firmly on top. Five minutes in, Wilder made his first change bringing on Hall for Heslop. Moments later Guy was charging towards the Swindon penalty area when he appeared to be deliberately tripped. The referee had other ideas and inexplicably waved play on. Swindon took advantage of the fact that the U's players had stopped to appeal and broke quickly - too quickly as it turned out as the linesman raised his flag for offside. This was too much for Di Canio who hurled a torrent of abuse towards the official. Already on a warning, the Italian was dismissed to the stands - much to the amusement of the travelling fans.

Wilder shortly made his second change bringing on Smalley for Guy. But the changes had little effect on the game as Swindon continued to dominate the proceedings. Leon Clarke again had a great chance to equalise but blazed his shot over the bar when clean through. Moments later Ryan Clarke made yet another great save after he blocked a near-post shot with his body.

With 15 minutes left, Batt came on for Potter in a bid to shore up the defence with Whing moving into the midfield and it seemed to work as Swindon were limited to long-range shots. In a very rare moment Constable had a chance to seal the points when Hall put him through on goal. The keeper quickly came out forcing Constable to lob him only seeing his shot agonisingly clip the bar and go over.

Five minutes of additional time were signalled and Swindon intensified their efforts in a bid to equalise. Red wave after red wave attacked relentlessly in a scene that resembled the Zulu's attacking the British troops at Rourke's Drift. Again Clarke came to the rescue as he held on well to a long range shot. With the Oxford fans whistling furiously for the referee to blow for time Swindon had one last desperate effort on goal but it went sailing over the bar.

Then the moment came when the referee blew to end 38 years of misery and spark scenes of jubilation amongst the Oxford fans. As Chris Wilder later commented, we were rubbish. But he also put his finger on it when he said that how many times had we played really well last season and came away with nothing? Too many times that I care to remember is the answer.

Were we rubbish? Certainly. Did Swindon deserve a share of the spoils? Absolutely. Do we care? NO! Because the history books will show that on 21st August 2011, the result at the County Ground will read Swindon Town 1 Oxford United 2.

And that's all that matters!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Bantams deliver a blow below the belt

Fixture: Oxford United 1 Bradford City 1

Date: 13/8/11


Oxford shared the spoils in a game they really should have won after a contentious equaliser from Bradford. Wilder made four changes from the Cardiff game, bringing in Heslop and Payne into the midfield and Smalley and Guy up front. Batt moved to the bench to allow Whing his first start at right back. So the side was: Clarke, Whing, Duberry, Wright, Davis, Heslop, Payne, Hall, Potter, Smalley, Guy. Subs: Batt, Constable, Pittman, Worley, Leven.


As early as the second minute Heslop tested the keeper with a shot from outside of the box, but it was straight at him and he collected it pretty comfortably. Bradford then had a decent effort themselves when a fierce free-kick 30 yards out was well saved by Clarke, eventually putting the ball out for a corner.


Lewis Guy then made a promising run down the left-hand side, cutting into the area and passing to Potter whose shot at goal lacked power and was cleared easily. Then Bradford had yet another free-kick in almost the same area as before, this time it beat Clarke and went narrowly over the bar.


For the next 15 minutes or so, Oxford tightened their grip on the game as we had our best spell of the game. The Bradford defence was stretched on either wing by Davis, Potter and Whing as a series of crosses tested their resolve. Finally the pressure told and on 28 minutes Oxford took the lead. Simon Heslop picked up the ball just inside the Bradford half, ran forwards into the space left by the retreating defenders and unleashed an unstoppable shot from 25 yards that nestled into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.


With the Bantams rocking, Oxford immediately pressed again and Asa Hall had a goalbound shot blocked by a Bradford defender for a corner. With the referee blowing for petty offences, the game lost it's momentum and the rest of the half was stop-start with neither side having any real sights of goal . So at half-time Oxford went in 1-0 up.


Oxford came out of the blocks with a lot of purpose at the start of the second half as they tried to extend their lead. Potter had an early chance, but his shot hit a defender and went agonisingly close to dropping in, landing on top of the net. Then after a corner had caused a bit of panic in Bradford's penalty area the ball dropped to Josh Payne on the edge of the area, but he blasted his shot well over the bar.


Gradually though, Bradford started to get back into the game after weathering the storm. In a bid to inject life back into the side, Wilder brought on Constable for Potter and Leven for Hall but it was the Bantams who were celebrating next. On 77 minutes Bradford had a free-kick awarded in the middle of our half. The ball was delivered into a crowd of players just inside the area where it seemed that hesitation on our part allowed Hannah a soft tap-in. Replays shown later suggest that Duberry received a shove in the back as he was about to head clear, allowing the ball to drop at the feet of the Bradford man to stick away a relatively easy chance from close range.


Oxford responded by making their final substitution, bringing on Pittman for Heslop. Whing, intercepting a pass in the Bradford half, then made a powerful run through the centre of the park, shrugging aside several challenges before laying the ball off to Pittman on the left-hand edge of the area, but his shot was deflected and went over the bar.


Oxford desperately pressed for an equaliser but despite having the majority of the play in the closing moments, the Bantams held on for a draw. It was a disappointing result and underlined our inability to take chances whilst clearly on top. Failure to do so ultimately cost us getting the three points our play deserved. Overall it was a good performance but we must be more clinical in front of goal. With an eagerly awaited derby game coming up next weekend its time to make those chances count.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Bluebirds fly away with the spoils

Fixture: Oxford United 1 Cardiff City 3 (aet)

Carling Cup Round 1

Date: 10/8/11


In a stirring display, Oxford took Cardiff to extra time before succumbing to two late goals. For many fans it was their first chance to see the new signings which were further added to with the months loan signing of Lewis Guy from MK Dons to cover for the injured Tom Craddock. So the line up was: Clarke, Batt, Duberry, Wright, Whing, Hall, Clist, Davis, Constable, Pittman, Potter. Subs: Brown, Worley, Heslop, Payne, Leven, Smalley, Guy.


Oxford began the game brightly, looking to take on their Championship opponents from the opening whistle and on 5 minutes Alfie Potter tried a long-range shot from outside the box which went just wide of the right-hand post. Despite having the majority of the opening exchanges, against the run of play Cardiff took the lead in the 10th minute. A pretty innocuous looking cross from the right was met by Crag Conway who stabbed a shot goalwards. In what resembled a pin-ball machine the ball seemed to ricochet off a couple of players before spinning gently behind Clarke and into the net.


Oxford refused to let the set-back upset them and kept to their passing game-plan as they once again took the game to Cardiff. Two minutes later Constable was fouled on the edge of the area and the resulting free-kick by Davis was viciously whipped into the area where Cardiff managed to scramble it clear. On 17 minutes Pittman broke through the Cardiff back line into the area where he was clearly being held back by a defender who was grabbing his shorts. Oxford's appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears as the referee, Andy D'Urso waved play on.


With the game opening up, Cardiff countered with a quick attack which resulted in a cross picking out Parkin who's header went over the bar. On the half hour though Oxford were finally rewarded for all their good play when they levelled the tie. Clist, who had been struggling for most of the game, picked out Pittman with a lovely through-ball which put the striker in on goal. One-on-one with Heaton he shot powerfully but the goalkeeper bravely blocked his effort only to see it drop to the feet of Simon Clist who calmly slotted it home from 20 yards.


The game was now evenly poised as both sides defended and attacked in equal measure. As the half drew to a close Cardiff were pressing more but our defence looked pretty solid and the teams went in at the break level at 1-1.


For once Oxford started the second period really well and had Cardiff on the back foot early on in the half. Fussy refereeing from D'Urso though saw the game fall into a stop-start pattern as the official disrupted play with petty infringements. Ten minutes into the second half Cardiff went really close when Farah crashed in a shot from outside the area which hit the bar and rebounded into play. Oxford immediately counter-attacked and a superb run and cross from Potter nearly picked out Pittman in the area but the striker failed to get a clean connection on his shot.


On 60 minutes Wilder made a double substitution, bringing on Leven for Clist and Guy for Pittman. Leven brought us a lot more stability in the midfield and he put in a delightful pass to Constable where the striker seemed to be felled in the area - again D'Urso ignored the penalty appeals and waved play on. Guy then made a superb run down the left only to put his cross slightly behind Constable who was arriving in the box.


On 70 minutes Oxford thought they were awarded a free-kick and the big men from the back came up for the set piece. D'Urso had other ideas and instead signalled a thow in. Duberry, though, decided to stay up front and Leven delivered a pin-point cross to the big centre-half who saw his powerful header just clear the cross-bar. Then Batt made a good run and cross into the area. Constable had his back to goal but managed to turn and shoot but found his shot blocked.


Cardiff though had their own chances to win the game in normal time and following a corner a shot by Parkin was scrambled clear by Clarke, Wright and Duberry. Oxford could have taken the tie at the death when Leven again put a superb ball over the top of the Cardiff defence for Guy to bear down on goal. He tried to flick it over the head of Heaton but the keeper just managed to get his fingertips to the ball and flick it away. With the chance gone the 90 minutes were up with the teams tied at 1-1.


The first seven minutes of extra time was a cagey affair with neither team on top but then Cardiff stunned United when they re-took the lead. Whittingham picked up a pass in a seemingly safe area of the pitch but from just outside the area he shot sweetly through a crowd of players to leave Clarke flat-footed as the ball went into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. Just before the end of the first period a free kick delivered by Leven saw a header from Hall clip off the crossbar and go over.


Five minutes into the last period of extra time, Lewis Guy put a cross deep into the area but Constable's effort went wide right of the goal. With time running out Oxford started to throw caution to the wind as they sought an equaliser. Duberry was now playing as an extra striker and even popped up on the right wing to put in a dangerous cross towards Constable who had the ball just nicked off his toe.


With the game entering stoppage time Cardiff finally killed off the tie when they scored a third goal. A long punt was belted forward by the keeper. Wright completely misjudged the bounce allowing the ball to go over his head where Jarvis was waiting to pounce and gently lift the ball over the outrushing Clarke into an empty net. It was a cruel stroke of luck and gave a scoreline that didn't reflect the game.


It was a disappointing end to the evening but at least we had seen an encouraging display. On Saturday we get back to league action where we will look to get our first 3 points of the season as we take on Bradford City at home.

Friday, 5 August 2011

The 2011-12 season kicks off!

Tomorrow we kick off our second season back in League 2 when we start with a tricky away fixture at Rotherham United. Like us, the Millers will be hoping to make that small improvement on last season to push into an automatic or play-off place.

A relatively successful first season back in the Football League saw Oxford United fall just short of the playoffs by 5 points, eventually finishing a respectable 12th place in League 2. Defensive naivety probably cost us those 5 points and Chris Wilder has moved decisively in the Summer to strengthen the squad in that area.

During the season Wilder tried to shuffle the pack in an attempt to freshen things up and as a result Paul McLaren, Josh Payne and Tom Craddock have all proved to be valuable assets to the club. Inevitably there has been a departure of players - Simon Eastwood, Sam Deering, Jack Midson and Dannie Bulman - whilst others are either currently out on loan or available to other clubs (Ben Purkiss, Stevie Kinniburgh, Simon Clist, Matt Green). Sadly Mitchell Cole was forced to retire at the young age of 25 because of a serious heart condition.

The new additions to the squad are detailed below:

Wayne Brown, Goalkeeper
Wayne, 34, began his career at Bristol City where he came through as a youth but never played for the first team. He joined Chester in 1996 spening 10 seasons with them and playing 300 games in L1 and the Conference before joining Hereford in 2006. He played for three years at Edgar Street and made 103 appearances. Brown went to Bury in 2008 spending two seasons with the Shakers and playing 76 games. He then moved to South Africa last season for a year with Supersport before heading back to England to join Oxford.

Michael Duberry, Defender
35 year old "Dubes" needs no introduction! The centre back began in the Premier League with Chelsea where he came through as a youth and made nearly 90 appearances for them in six seasons between 1993 and 1999. He left in 1999 to join Leeds United where he spent a disappointing six seasons in and out of the side, only making 60 appearances in total. In 2005 he went out on loan to Stoke City before making his move permanent. He played 95 times for the Potters in the Championship over two and a half seasons being ever present before heading again into the Premier League with Reading in 2007. He played 50 games for them over two seasons before spending a year with Wycombe Wanderers in L1 only making 18 appearances as a bit-part player. Last season he moved north of the border to join SPL side St. Johnstone where he was an ever present, playing 50 games. Citing a desire to move back down south to be closer to his family, he joined Oxford in the Summer.

Andrew Whing, Defender
Whing, 26, began at Coventry City where he came through the youth ranks before breaking into the first team in 2003, making 106 appearances over four years in the Championship. He fell out of favour in 2006 and went on loan to Brighton & Hove Albion, a move made permanent in the summer of 2007. He played over 100 games for them over three and a half seasons but fell out of favour in 2010 and had a spell on loan firstly at Chesterfield, playing 11 games, then last season Leyton Orient, before joining them permanently in January. He played a total of 25 games for Orient, scoring their Goal of the Season, before signing for Oxford this Summer.

Tony Capaldi, Defender
Capaldi, 29, began his career at Birmingham City but never played for them, only gaining experience from a short loan move at Hereford in 2001 where he played 12 games. He left and joined Plymouth Argyle in 2003 playing 140 games over 4 seasons. He joined Cardiff City in 2007, was ever present in his first season and made an FA Cup Final appearance as Cardiff lost to Portsmouth. He fell out of favour over thee next two seasons, eventually making a total of 55 appearances for the Bluebirds. He was loaned out to Leeds United in 2009 playing just three games before joining Morecambe last September. He played 18 games for them but fell out of favour, leaving in the summer to come to Oxford.

Ryan James, Defender
James, 21, came through the youth set-up at both QPR and Millwall before leaving to play for Grays last season. Joining the Nike Academy, he impressed in trials and has signed on a six month deal for this season.

Peter Leven, Midfielder
Leven, 27, started his career at Rangers as a youth but never played for them. Leaving in 2004 he signed for SPL side Kilmarnock where he played 65 games over three seasons. He then joined Chesterfield in 2007 where he played 42 games in L2 before making the step up to L1 with MK Dons where he has been the last three seasons making 113 appearances. Last season he was an ever-present as they got into the L1 play-offs. A goalscoring midfielder, Leven netted 22 times over the three seasons at MK Dons. Signing for Oxford was seen as a bit of a coup for the club as over the summer there was plenty of interest in Leven from several clubs, including Championship sides Millwall and Crystal Palace.

Liam Davis, Midfielder
Davis, 24, began at Coventry City where he came through the youth system but only made 11 first team appearances. He joined Northampton Town in 2008 and played 79 times for the Cobblers over the last three seasons before leaving in the Summer to join Oxford.

Deane Smalley, Striker
Smalley, 22, began his career at Oldham Athletic where he came through as a youth and broke into the first team in 2007. He was involved there for four seasons and made 105 appearances through a mixture of starts and sub appearances, scoring 11 goals. He fell out of favour last season and had a brief loan spell with Rochdale where he only made 3sub appearances before joining Chesterfield. Here he played a big part in their promotion, scoring 12 goals in 28 appearances as they romped home with the title. With many Spirite supporters expecting him to sign for them this season, he shocked everyone by joining Oxford in the Summer.

Jon-Paul Pittman, Striker
Pittman, 24, began his career at Nottingham Forest as a youth teamer. With no appearances for Forest his only league experiences were gained in short-term loan moves into L2. He left in 2007 signing briefly with Doncaster Rovers but left shortly after having never played for them. Pittman then moved into the Conference with Crawley Town where he attracted the attention of League scouts as he scored 22 goals from 60 games over two seasons. He moved back into the League with Wycombe Wanderers in 2009 and has been there the last 2 seasons making 77 appearances and scoring 14 goals before making the short journey down the M40 to join Oxford in the Summer.

So, the full squad is:

1 Ryan Clarke Goalkeeper
2 Damian Batt Defender
3 Anthony Tonkin Defender
4 Paul McLaren Midfielder
5 Michael Duberry Defender
6 Jake Wright Defender
8 Simon Heslop Midfielder
9 James Constable Striker
10 Deane Smalley Striker
11 Jon-Paul Pittman Striker
14 Asa Hall Midfielder
15 Alfie Potter Striker
16 Andrew Whing Defender
17 Tony Capaldi Defender
20 Peter Leven Midfielder
21 Wayne Brown Goalkeeper
22 Harry Worley Defender
25 Aaron Woodley Striker
26 Liam Davis Midfielder
28 Josh Payne Midfielder
29 Tom Craddock Striker
Ryan James Defender (6 month deal)