Insider: Oxford impressing under former Pompey boss

For Oxford United the stats say it all.

Oxford's Liam Sercombe celebrates scoring against Pompey earlier in the season. Picture: Joe Pepler
Oxford's Liam Sercombe celebrates scoring against Pompey earlier in the season. Picture: Joe Pepler

They have lost four times in the past 45 games in all competitions, stretching back into last season.

Having finished the previous League Two campaign extremely well, they have continued it superbly.

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At present they are competing on three fronts – the league, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the FA Cup.

Although there are little signs it is possibly starting to take its toll on Michael Appleton’s side.

They have played more matches than anyone in the top four divisions so far – 37 in total.

With Appleton relying on the same 13 or 14 players, they will have welcomed a break from midweek fixtures this week.

Their most recent match was last Sunday against Bristol Rovers, which ended in a 2-1 defeat.

The U’s were a bit hard done by in respect of a couple of penalty decisions which didn’t go their way and Rovers nicking it two minutes from time.

But it was off the back of two brilliant cup wins against Millwall and Swansea and possibly there were tired minds.

Kemar Roofe gets all the attention, as you expect for somebody with 18 goals this season.

But the U’s are a lot more than a one-man team and the midfield pair of Liam Sercombe and John Lundstram has been fantastic, really complementing each other.

Sercombe has 13 goals, when he never returned more than seven in a campaign during his time at Exeter.

There have been a couple of penalties in that.

But he is revelling in being given more licence to attack.

Lundstram is quite happy to protect, he plays a lot deeper and is regarded one of Oxford’s best passers for many a year.

Following his release from Everton’s Academy in the summer, he has been a revelation and the midfield pair have driven Appleton’s side onwards.

At right-back they have George Baldock on a season-long loan from MK Dons, who is almost like a right-sided midfielder such are his attacking instincts.

Pompey fans will be familiar with Ryan Taylor and he has done alright following his summer arrival.

All his four goals arrived at the turn of October and the start of November.

But he has been troubled by a groin problem.

He has actually been involved in a fair amount of goals by creating space for others, but they remain concerned about his injury.