Oxford United have recorded back-to-back 3-0 victories and they’ll be looking to continue that winning run when the U’s travel to Stevenage on Saturday.
While the scorelines from the last two games have been identical, the performances have been contrasting which shows that Liam Manning’s side can pick up the points in different circumstances and under different styles.
Oxford United Head to Stevenage: How the U’s Can Break Down a Resilient Steve Evans’ Side
Oxford headed to Fleetwood after the international break and they were facing an out-of-form team.
The U’s ended the game with more possession, more shots on goal and more passes than the Cod Army to pick up the win.
However, two of the goals came from a wide player cutting inside before unleashing the ball into the top corner. This won’t happen every week.
The next game came against Exeter, who sat above the U’s before kick-off. And for the first time this season, the home side struggled to maintain possession.
The Grecians ended the match with a lot more of the ball, more shots on goal almost one-third more passes. However, like at Fleetwood, Oxford were more clinical, albeit two of the goals came from the penalty spot.
How Oxford United Have Faired So Far This Season
On the opening day against Cambridge, Oxford played the same way as Exeter. They had far more possession, far more shots and far more passes, but ended up losing the game.
In matches against bigger sides in Derby and Barnsley respectively, Oxford didn’t have as much of the ball but they came away with six points from those two away days.
Stevenage make for an interesting opponent. Even against Cheltenham, they only had 36 per cent possession while in their win over Leyton Orient, it was the same story. Both of these came came on the road.
In their most recent home game – a 1-1 draw against Charlton – Stevenage still had less possession than their opponents but it was slightly more even, while in their home draw against Carlisle, they had more of the ball.
It’s clear that Stevenage are happy to be without the ball and it’s also evident that Oxford have also struggled to break an opponent down when in control of possession.
What Oxford United Need to Do
In order to get through this game, Liam Manning will need his players to break the lines and keep the ball out wide. While he may look for defensive stability in the full-back positions in Ciaron Brown and Sam Long, he may also look for more attacking impetus in Greg Leigh and Fin Stevens, respectively.
The wingers will also have an important role to play. Kyle Edwards and Stanley Mills both looked lively and scored against Fleetwood while Edwards provided an assist against Exeter.
Manning also has the likes of Tyler Goodrham, Billy Bodin, Ruben Rodrigues and a revived Josh Murphy at his disposal to add a variety of play in the wide areas.
Oxford will control possession and outpass their opponents but getting the ball into the final third will be the difficult part.