Oxford United Boss Assesses Squad Ahead Of Pivotal Clash – The Real EFL

Oxford United manager Des Buckingham knows just how important the final two games of the season are for his side, who are in touching distance of reaching the play-offs. He does however also know that after a busy week, some changes may well be needed.

The U’s host Stevenage on Friday night in what is the only fixture in the entirety of the EFL. A month ago this looked as if it could be a real six-pointed in terms of the race for the play-offs, but Stevenage’s chances of promotion have disappeared after a rather poor run of form.

Significantly, Steve Evans would also leave the club this week to join Rotherham United, a decision which certainly shocked some. It’s unknown how that’ll affect the players, but Oxford can expect a tough game nonetheless.

Friday’s game will in fact be the play-off chasers’ third game in the last six days and some rotation can be expected as a result. After winning three games in a row with dominant performances, Oxford’s winning run was halted on Tuesday as they were defeated at home by fellow play-off chasers Lincoln City. That was a huge result for the Imps, who still preserve a chance of making the post-season as a result.

Des Buckingham will be looking to rectify that result at the first time of asking, and a win against Stevenage on Friday would put them in a very strong position. If the U’s manage to win and both Lincoln and Blackpool lose this weekend, then they’ll confirm their play-off spot. That is easier said than done however.

With the game against Stevenage being their third in the last six days, some rotation can be expected. Des Buckingham didn’t give too much away in an interview with the Oxford Mail but did insist that fatigue may also impact the selection.

“We’ll always judge on performance first, and then whether we feel players may be able to get an advantage if we change.

“With three games in six days, you have to look at workload, and it’s a challenge to play the way we want.

“We have to recognise performance, but we also need to make sure with two games to go, we put the best team on the pitch.”

With eight days to prepare for their final day travel to Exeter City, Buckingham will be looking to get his players through Friday and give them a couple of days rest after. Tonight’s result will heavily shape what their next week of training looks like as in theory they could have their play-off spot all sewn up this weekend.

Writer’s View

The resurgence of Oxford United over the last month has been rather impressive and they were unbeaten in their last five prior to their loss to Lincoln City on Tuesday night, four of those being wins. Given they’ve now only let in two goals in their last six, Buckingham will be confident that his side can bounce back, although Stevenage are a complete unknown at the minute.

Questions have been raised about Buckingham’s capabilities of a manager but he’s so far continued what Liam Manning started, although maybe not to the same extent, but still has them in a strong position.

If they do slip up tonight, Lincoln will be breathing down their necks and the final day of the season could be rather dramatic.

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