From the press box: Oxford United

Oxford boss Michael Appleton

Oxford boss Michael Appleton - Credit: Archant

Ahead of Stevenage’s trip to Oxford United, The Comet asked Oxford Mail reporter David Pritchard for his lowdown on United’s season so far...

Oxford are looking good for promotion. How would you sum up their season so far?

In a word: memorable.

From the opening week of the season, when they hammered Brentford 4-0 in the Capital One Cup, this looked like a team who could achieve something.

With a fairly small squad they’ve managed to juggle cup runs along with keeping a promotion challenge on track and they have been in the top three since October.

What has particularly been impressive is the way they have responded to setbacks.

Only once this season have they lost successive league games and last week summed it up – after losing at home to Leyton Orient they hit back with convincing wins against Dagenham & Redbridge and Barnet.

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They have goals throughout the team. What has Michael Appleton changed to get it so right this season?

To be honest this upward trend started in the final couple of months of last season.

Michael Appleton had lots of work to do behind the scenes to get things how he wanted at United and the squad underwent a steady overhaul during last season.

Many of the pieces were in place by this time last year and the club really nailed their recruitment in the summer.

On top of everything, they unearthed a gem in Kemar Roofe – 31 goals in 50 appearances will work wonders for any side.

Was Manchester United’s reported interest in Appleton for their academy in February serious, and if so just how important was it that he remained at the club?

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an enquiry, but I don’t think he would have considered it for long.

After three false starts, Michael Appleton has waited a long time to get a good crack at management.

Oxford United showed patience when things struggled in the beginning last season and everyone is reaping the rewards now.

He is about to sign a new contract, which demonstrates how important he and the club are to each other.

Kemar Roofe has been outstanding. Did any clubs come in for him in January, and just how good is he?

Oxford United went out of their way to make it known only an astronomical bid in January would make them think twice about selling Kemar Roofe.

There was certainly interest, which has not gone away, but as far as I’m aware there were no firm offers.

United may well have a tougher fight on their hands to hold on to him this summer, even if they are promoted, though.

As for his ability, I think it’s fairly obvious he is destined for a higher level. The quality and quantity of his goals have caught the eye and he seems to reserve his best football for the highest-profile games. Just ask Swansea City.

How much of a miss will Callum O’Dowda be this Friday and are any other players going to be missing?

Callum O’Dowda will be a miss, particularly after he starred with two goals in the win at Barnet last weekend.

But if Oxford United can afford to lose a player for a couple of games it is in wide areas, where they have a variety of options.

Of more concern is Everton loanee Jonjoe Kenny, who is away with England U19s and is the only fit specialist right back in the squad.

Left back Jordan Evans, from Fulham, is away with Wales U21s, while AJ George has been called up for Antigua & Barbuda.