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Oxford United preview and pub guide: Will Brentford be up for the cup?

Oxford United preview and pub guide: Will Brentford be up for the cup?

Oxford suffered a Christmas slump in League One and a winless festive period has dumped them in the relegation zone.

They only picked up one point in their four holiday matches – drawing the first of them 2-2 at Doncaster, before losing home games with Southend and Bristol Rovers 1-0 and 2-0 respectively and then slipping to a 3-0 defeat at Plymouth on New Year’s Day.

This came after they had only lost one of their previous 12 league games.

In fact, like Brentford, they are suffering from travel sickness and are the only League One side without an away win all season.

They have drawn eight and lost five of their matches on the road, but have not drawn any of their games at the Kassam Stadium, where they have won six and lost seven.

The Us have done much better in cup competitions this season, however, and Saturday’s trip to Griffin Park will be their 11th tie of the campaign.

They reached the third round of the Carabao Cup after beating League One Coventry 2-0 at home and winning 3-0 at League Two Newport to earn a tie with Manchester City, in which they succumbed to a 3-0 home defeat.

In the Checkatrade Trophy, they have navigated the group stage to reach the round of 16, where they travel to Cheltenham on Tuesday.

They finished top of their group after beating Fulham Under-21s 3-0 and winning 3-0 at Wycombe, making a 2-1 defeat to Northampton meaningless, and then in the round of 32 they beat Spurs Under-21s 3-0.

They have reached Saturday’s game at Griffin Park with two away wins – 3-0 at Forest Green and 2-1 at Plymouth.


This is the fourth time in seven seasons that Oxford have reached the third round.

In 2012/13 and 2013/14, their run ended at that stage – the first time in a 3-0 defeat by Sheffield United and 12 months later in a 3-0 replay defeat to Charlton.

Their 2015/16 exit was also by 3-0 – but this time in the fourth round at home to Blackburn – while the following season, they reached the fifth round before bowing out 3-2 at Middlesbrough.

UP FOR THE CUP?

Brentford’s FA Cup record since being promoted to the Championship is quite frankly appalling.

With our new status giving us a free pass to the third round, this season is the fifth in a row in which we have been drawn at home and on three of the previous four ties, two of which were against sides from a lower division, we have fallen at the first hurdle.

In 2014-15, we entertained Brighton, who were struggling in the Championship. The game was ex-Bee Chris Hughton’s first as Seagulls manager and he got off to a winning start as late goals from Lewis Dunk (88) and Chris O’Grady (90+3) wrapped up a 2-0 win for the visitors.

A season later, we were paired with League One Walsall, just over a month after Dean Smith had left the Saddlers for Griffin Park. The visitors, who had Romaine Sawyers at the heart of their midfield, were desperate for revenge and duly got it as Sam Mantom’s 34th minute proved enough to separate the teams.

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Two seasons ago, we finally won a third round tie as we beat Martin Allen’s Eastleigh 5-1. All the goals came in the first half, with Yoann Barbet, from the penalty spot, Tom Field, with two, Lasse Vibe and Romaine Sawyers all on target, while Ayo Obileye replied for the National League side to pull it back to 3-1.

Our reward, as it had been in our previous fourth round appearance in 2013, was a tie with Chelsea – this time at Stamford Bridge. However, that’s where the similarities ended as we slumped to a 4-0 defeat and goals by Willian, Pedro, Branislav Ivanovic and Michy Batshuayi, with a penalty.

Last season, we once again tumbled out at the first hurdle – this time to a League Two side in Notts County, with Jon Stead scoring the only goal midway through the second half.

WHO’S IN CHARGE

Karl Robinson took over as Oxford boss in March last year – after leaving his role as Charlton manager by mutual consent earlier the same day.

He had been in charge at The Valley since November 2016.

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Robinson had previously spent nearly six-and-a-half years in charge of MK Dons.

When he took over from Paul Ince at the age of 29, stepping up from the assistant manager role, he became the youngest manager in the Football League.

Robinson took the Dons to the League One play-offs, where they lost in the semi-finals, after fifth-place finishes in each of his first two seasons and after two top half placings, he finally led them to promotion to the Championship in 2015 after they finished runners-up to Bristol City.

Robinson’s playing career was cut short by injury while a YTS player at Swindon.

He went on to work in Liverpool’s academy for eight years before Ince, who he met at Anfield, brought him to Milton Keynes as first team coach.

The pair also worked together at Blackburn before returning for a second spell with the Dons.

WE’VE MET BEFORE

Brentford and Oxford have not met much in recent years, with our last league encounters coming in the 2000/01 season.

The sides were in Division Two (now League One) and the Bees did the double with an early-season 1-0 away win, earned with a Tony Folan goal, followed by a 3-0 triumph at Griffin Park on New Year’s Day, thanks to an Andy Scott brace and a late third from Scott Partridge.

We also beat them 4-1 in the LDV Vans Trophy at home in December that season, with two Partridge goals in-between a Jay Lovett opener and late strike from Scott Marshall wrapping up victory. Steve Anthrobus was on target for the Us.

Since then, Oxford earned LDV Vans Trophy revenge in 2005/06, beating us 4-3 on penalties at Griffin Park after a 1-1 draw in which Scott P Fitzgerald’s opener was cancelled out by ex-Bee Leo Roget’s strike.

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And three seasons ago, they romped to a 4-0 win in the first round of the Capital One Cup – again at Griffin Park. It was 3-0 after only 12 minutes thanks to Liam Sercombe, Danny Hylton and Kemar Roofe, but worse was to come for Brentford as record signing Andreas Bjelland suffered a horrendous knee injury in the dodgy pitch on his debut and didn’t play again for 12 months. John Mullins completed the rout early in the second half.

OPPOSITION VIEW

BBC Oxford Sports Editor Jerome Sale tells us why Oxford fans snapped up their Griffin Park tickets so quickly, what fans are expecting from their League One campaign, and the impact that ex-Bee John Mousinho is having at the Kassam Stadium.

Q – How seriously are Oxford taking the FA Cup this season – are they playing a full-strength side or making lots of changes each round?

A – Oxford have been taking the Cup pretty seriously. Changes have been kept to a minimum – in fact with the exception of the Checkatrade Trophy, manager Karl Robinson has hardly been making alterations to his side. Until a post-Christmas dip, they had been in fine form and, with several players out injured, the team was picking itself.

Oxford have already been active in the January window so that could have an impact on this weekend’s game. As a club, Oxford are giving it a go in all the cup competitions. Last year they were knocked out in the first round of the FA Cup and League Cup, and by League Two sides. That hit finances and morale. This season it took Man City to knock them out of the League Cup.

Q – I see that Us fans bought all the tickets available for this tie inside five minutes – what has produced such levels of cup fever among supporters?

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A – Oxford fans LOVE an away day. It’s pretty common for away games to sell out in League One where capacities are limited. You’re right, tickets for this match didn’t get as far as open sale. There’s an attraction in coming to a Championship club as well. But let’s be honest, it’s still basically Christmas and the previous two away games were Doncaster and Plymouth. By comparison Griffin Park isn’t exactly far!

Q – How would you assess the club’s League One season so far – better or worse than expected and what were the expectations at the start of the campaign?

A – If you asked 24 different Oxford fans where thought their team would end up this season you would probably have received 24 different answers. In the last 12 months the club has gone through a takeover and change of management. The team had terrible results from a tough early fixture list this season – and have been playing catch-up ever since.

As I mentioned, form picked up markedly after the first couple of months – though that hit the buffers last week. Oxford fans are both optimists and realists. They hope for a top half finish still. Most, from here, would take survival.

Q – What style of play can Brentford fans expect to see from Oxford?

A – They play decent football. When they click they have an attack with explosive pace. It’s definitely not route one, in fact occasionally there seems to be a desire to score a perfect goal. Needs must though, and the formation has changed to a 4-3-3, which for the most part has worked well.

They have midfielders playing in the full-back positions. You might think that would lead to even more passing from the back – but, in the rough and tumble of a League One dogfight, that hasn’t really been the case.

Q – Who are the players to watch out for?

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A – I’ve heard a lot this week from Oxford fans saying how great their team is on paper. Five or six could hold their own in the Championship right now in my opinion.

The keeper Simon Eastwood is quite capable of having a “worldy”. Marcus Browne, who’s on loan from West Ham, has been attracting attention from higher up the leagues and Gavin Whyte is a Northern Ireland international with bags of pace and potential.  If they all play to their potential in this game, Oxford have a chance.

Q – How is ex-Bee John Mousinho doing at the Kassam Stadium?

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A – Mousinho is a man transformed this season. He had a mixed start to his time at Oxford, playing at centre-back. But earlier this season he was made captain and switched into a holding midfield role. That was credited as being a major reason for an upturn in fortunes.

He was rested for the first half on New Year’s Day and it didn’t go well and he was back involved by half-time. He started his pro career for Brentford in a cup game against Oxford. At 32 and in the other camp now, he’s still going strong. For what it’s worth, he seems to have the makings of a decent manager too.

Q – Do you have any memories of past Bees-Oxford games?

A – Oxford fans generally won’t look past their last visit – and a win in the League Cup, but my standout memory is a New Year’s Day game in 2001. It was an early kick-off. I was convinced the match would be off, as there had been a post-Christmas freeze, so enjoyed myself to the max on New Year’s Eve. Staggering home in the early hours of the morning I barely noticed how mild it had become. The pitch inspection was passed. The game was on. My head hurt.

We were told to watch out for Andy Scott and Rob Quinn in the Brentford line-up as they would be joining Oxford. Scott scored twice. He never looked that good again!

Q – Finally can you tell me a likely Oxford line-up and formation please?

Eastwood

Hanson  Nelson  Dickie  Ruffels

Henry      Mousinho    Brannagan

Whyte      Mackie           Browne

BEESOTTED SCORE PREDICTIONS

Some of the Beesotted crew have given me their score predictions for Saturday’s tie.

1-0 Bees in the battle of who could care less. Two teams with more important things to think about. The tragic of the cup. Lou Boyd

– A game we really don’t need given the thinness of the squad. 2-1 Oxford as Bees struggle to fill the bench. Men against boys again as it was in 2015. Greville Waterman

– 3-0 to a much-changed Bees side, I’m hoping to see some much-needed game time for some of the fringe players who can hopefully seize the moment and shine. Dave Lane

– 2-1 Brentford. Oxford see it as a big game for them, but given the number of fixtures we have had over Christmas and the fact that we could be facing a relegation battle, I think Frank will pick a team containing a number of B players who will be looking to impress. Liberal Nick

– 1-1. Bees likely to make changes with B team players coming in to play the new 3-4-3 system for the first time or a switch back to four at the back. Either way it’s a big ask. Matt Allard

IAN WESTBROOK

@ianwestbrook

PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS

For Oxford fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

As you are probably well aware, Brentford is well known for its four pubs – one on each corner of the ground.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

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Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.

There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.

And another new pub worth checking out is The Black Dog Beer House, formerly The Albany, on Albany Road.

There is a pub right by Brentford mainline station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For real ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.

The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super-adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge, and across from the site of the Bees’ new stadium at Lionel Road, with a deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel. There are a load more pubs in the river in Kew if that takes your fancy.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many, many more too if you have a look around.

Parking near the stadium is a no no but is pretty easy in the streets north of Griffin Park on the other side of the A4 Great West Rd via Ealing Road or Windmill Road. Make sure you look our for the parking signs which change from area to area.

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Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.

By tube, it’s 35 minutes to South Ealing or Northfields stations from King’s Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Griffin Park from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).

You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.

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About The Author

Ian Westbrook

Bees fan since 1971 - been through all the ups and downs. Written about, reported on, commentated on and wittered on about all things Brentford in that time as well as watching hundreds, if not thousands of games, and loved every minute of it!

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