How Oxford United are turning a corner under Karl Robinson
Only two sides in League One have made it through the last seven games unbeaten.
Pre-season favourites Sunderland are one, but the other are an Oxford United side who looked nailed-on for relegation less than two months ago.
Saturday’s 1-0 defeat of Gillingham saw the U’s wave goodbye to the drop zone for the first time since August.
Now just six points away from mid-table, we look at why it’s all going so right for Karl Robinson’s men…and whether they can keep it up.
U’s developing a rock-solid backline
Putting aside a mad six minutes where they conceded three goals at Glanford Park last month, Oxford’s defence has been nigh-on flawless in recent weeks.
The U’s have conceded one other goal in their last eight games in all competitions. And Saturday’s defeat of the Gills marked a third clean sheet on the spin.
At centre-back, the pairing of combative captain – and aerial threat – Curtis Nelson, and talented youngster Robert Dickie is really beginning to click.
They’ve got a similarly well-balanced duo at full-back, with pacy Everton loanee Luke Garbutt and the wily Tony McMahon occupying the flanks.
Despite a rocky start to the season, Robinson has been pretty consistent with the personnel in his back four. And right now, that’s looking like a good call.
They’re incredibly strong starters
You won’t find many Oxford fans sipping their drinks in the concourse after kick-off these days. There’s too high a risk of missing out on goal glory!
Four of the U’s last nine games have seen them net in the opening eight minutes. Paired with their increasingly strong defence, they’ve often killed games off well before half-time.
However, they’re still able to keep the pressure up in matches where things don’t go to plan straight off the bat.
It took 58 minutes for Saturday’s winner against the Gills to come, but it was no surprise when it arrived. The U’s were on top in every key category, from possession to shots on and off target, as well as corners.
They even out-fouled the Kent outfit, for a clean sweep on that front!
Robinson knows League One inside out
Despite a slow start to his tenure after being appointed in March 2018, the board at the Kassam Stadium have stuck with Robinson. And it’s paying off.
Part of the reason they’ve likely kept the faith is the gaffer’s record at this level. Back in 2014-15, he recorded automatic promotion as MK Dons boss.
In fact, in his eight seasons with the Dons and Charlton Athletic in this league, he never finished below 13th – with seven of those eight seeing a top 10 berth.
The U’s next league game sees a visit to Bradford City on Saturday. The Bantams have managed just one point from seven matches, and it’s 13/10 for an Oxford win.
Meanwhile, Robinson’s men are 16/5 to Win to Nil.
Having been among the early-season relegation candidates, Oxford are now out to 5/2 to suffer relegation. Just a month ago, they were odds-on at 10/11 for the drop.
As for a top-six finish, it’s a big ask – but at 33/1, stranger things have happened.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing