U's incapable of turning in consistent performances
IF ANY team sums up the unpredictability of League Two this season, it's Oxford United.
On paper, they have a squad which ought to see them pushing for automatic promotion, let alone the Play-Offs.
Yet for their expectant fans they have been infuriatingly inconsistent all season, capable of beating the best sides one minute and losing to the worst the next.
Rotherham may not be among the worst, far from it, but the U's 4-0 home defeat to the Millers on Tuesday night, after wins over leaders Gillingham and second-placed Port Vale, was the latest example of their hot-and-cold character.
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In goal, an injury to resident 'keeper Ryan Clarke has prompted manager Chris Wilder to give Luke McCormick the chance to relaunch his senior career. The former Plymouth Argyle favourite is back in League football after serving more than two years in jail for causing death by dangerous driving.
A spell with Truro City preceded Wilder's decision to sign McCormick in January.
Wilder has plenty of options in defence, but seems to have settled on a back-four of long-serving Damian Batt at right-back, Jake Wright (Halifax, Crawley, Brighton) and Michael Raynes (Stockport, Scunthorpe, Rotherham) in the middle and ex-Northampton player Liam Davis at left-back.
Raynes was a target for the Gulls last summer before opting for a move to the Kassam Stadium, prompting United manager Martin Ling to go for Aaron Downes instead.
In midfield Alfie Potter (see Player To Watch) and Sean Rigg (Bristol Rovers, Port Vale) have held the call on the wings, flanking ex-Sheffield United youngster Adam Chapman and experienced Tony Capaldi (Birmingham, Plymouth, Cardiff, Morecambe).
Capaldi has played at left-back for most of his career, but has been given an 'anchorman' role in midfield of late.
The two obvious choices up front would be the U's two leading scorers, James Constable (11gls) and Tom Craddock (12), but Wilder has juggled his roster recently.
Former Oldham and Chesterfield forward Deane Smalley has partnered Potter, with support from ex-QPR and Oldham youngster Josh Parker.
Constable and Craddock remain two strong options from the subs' bench, along with on-loan Burton striker Justin Richards.
Max Crocombe is the reserve goalie.
Wilder can turn to experienced players like Andrew Whing (Brighton, Leyton Orient) and former Premier League star Michael Duberry (Chelsea, Leeds, Stoke, Reading, Wycombe), as well as ex-Leicester stopper Harry Worley in defence. Luke O'Brien (Bradford C, Exeter) provides cover at left-back.
Loanee Lewis Montrose (Wycombe, Gillingham) and Simon Heslop (Kidderminster, Barnsley) would get into many League Two sides, as would recent signing Scott Davies from Crawley.
Gulls fans may remember Davies for a crucial late winner he scored for Aldershot at Plainmoor when both clubs were chasing the Conference title in March 2008.