Our final match of 2016...
The Saddlers will be hoping to end 2016 on a high with victory at Oxford on New Year’s Eve. Jon Whitney’s men beat Port Vale 1-0 last time out and have fared well on the road of late, losing only two of the last 11 away games in all competitions - winning five. Michael Appleton’s Oxford achieved promotion from League Two as runners-up last season and are above the Saddlers only on goal difference. Tomorrow’s clash will be the first meeting between the two clubs in almost 16 years, and our first competitive visit to the three-sided Kassam Stadium. Our last victory at Oxford came at the Old Manor Ground back in 1981.
Oxford: 14th – P23 W8 D6 L9 F28 A28 PTS30
Walsall: 15th – P23 W7 D9 L7 F26 A31 PTS30
26th December – Oxford 0-1 Northampton – League One
Marc Richards struck a stoppage-time winner as Northampton condemned Oxford to a dramatic derby defeat. Lewin Nyatanga went close for the Cobblers when he headed Matty Taylor’s corner over the bar, while Oxford’s Chris Maguire tested Adam Smith from a free-kick. Paul Anderson spurned a golden chance for the visitors, but Northampton did seal victory in added time when Richards flicked home Harry Beautyman’s cross.
26th December – Port Vale 0-1 Walsall – League One
Scott Laird’s first-half goal earned Walsall a richly-deserved Boxing Day win at struggling Port Vale. The Saddlers dominated the opening period and took the lead on 27 minutes when Scunthorpe loanee Laird slotted past Valiants stopper Jak Alnwick at his near post. Simeon Jackson and Flo Cuvelier had chances to double our lead, and although Vale improved after the break, visiting keeper Neil Etheridge was rarely troubled.
Oxford wins: 16
Walsall wins: 6
13th January 2001 – Oxford 2-1 Walsall – Division Two
The Saddlers’ last meeting against Oxford came almost 16 years ago – way back in January 2001. Phil Gray netted a first-half brace as the U’s ran out 2-1 winners in a Division Two clash at the Manor Ground, with Dean Keates scoring Walsall’s late consolation. In goal for the Yellows was a certain Neil Cutler, on loan from Aston Villa, while current Leeds boss Garry Monk played in defence.
Oxford Manager: Michael Appleton
The 41-year-old guided Oxford to League Two promotion and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final last season. Salford-born Appleton was appointed U’s head coach in July 2014 and has won 61 of his 143 matches at the helm, posting a 42.6% win percentage. The former Manchester United apprentice has also managed West Brom (caretaker), Portsmouth, Blackpool and Blackburn, whom he led to an FA Cup fifth-round win over Arsenal in February 2013.
Oxford Star Man: Chris Maguire
Two-time Scotland international striker who is Oxford’s top scorer, with 11 goals in 28 appearances in all competitions. The 27-year-old returned to the Kassam Stadium on a one-year deal in the summer and has previously played for Sheffield Wednesday, Derby and Aberdeen, the club with whom he started his career.
Maz Kouhyar and Reece Flanagan remain sidelined.
The Surrey-based referee has officiated two Saddlers matches already this term: our 3-1 opening-day win over AFC Wimbledon and the 1-1 draw at Gillingham in October. He has taken charge of 23 games in total this season, brandishing 100 yellow cards and five red.
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