The Hunt Is On

Wanderers will be out to keep hunting down the play-off pack when they face promotion hopefuls Oxford United.

Oxford are sitting fifth in League One – three points outside the automatic promotion places.

But victory for Wanderers at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday would heighten the Whites’ interest in the top six.

And that’s Ian Evatt’s aim as his in-form side seek to extend their six-game unbeaten run and get to within eight points of the U’s with a game in hand.

“We want to hunt down the teams above us,” said the Wanderers’ boss.

“We’re aware there’s quite a gap to those teams and in these types of games we have to make sure we gain points on those team ahead of us and that means by beating them, predominantly.

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“We’ve got most to play. We’ve got our eye on what’s to come but Oxford’s a really tough game.

“They will feel if they beat us that’s more or less us ticked off, whereas if we beat them – and we’ve got a game in hand as well – then we won’t be too far away, so it is a big game.

“They’ve got a very good home record, score loads of goals and we need to make sure we’re full tilt and ready to go.”

Tenth-placed Wanderers made it five wins out of six with their mid-week victory over Charlton Athletic.

Following a seven-game losing run away from home, the Whites are also unbeaten in back-to-back away games with four points out of six on the road since losing at leaders Rotherham on New Year’s Day.

And with a Tuesday night trip to Burton Albion to follow the visit to Oxford, Evatt is hoping to build on that.

He added: “We’ve got opportunities now to start picking up points away from home and if we want to get anywhere close to where we want to be, we have to start doing that right now.

“There’s no time for waiting. We’ve got two big away games – Saturday/Tuesday – coming up.

“The team will change between the two and we have to pick up points.”

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Defender George Johnston returns to the squad after recovering from illness and Evatt has some tough decisions to make.

Recent recruits Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Kieran Sadlier are among those pushing for a start as Wanderers aim to become just the third side to win at Oxford in the league this season to complete another double following August's 2-1 home win over the U's.

And with the number of January arrivals adding to the list of Wanderers’ crowd favourites, the feel-good factor is growing.

“Another thing we lost from the pandemic is that connection with fans and individuals,” admitted Evatt, whose side clinched promotion last season playing behind closed doors.

“Hearing their names being sung is a huge lift for players. It gives them no end of confidence.

“We didn’t hear that at all last season but now we’re starting to hear individual songs when they’re having good games or doing good things during games.

“It can only bode well for that connection between the fan base and our team.”


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