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Opposition Lowdown: Des Buckingham's Promotion-Chasing Oxford United

Reading travel up the road to Oxford this Saturday for the second Thames Valley Derby of the season. Join us as we take a closer look at the opposition.

Oxford United v Derby County - Sky Bet League One - Kassam Stadium Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

Form

Oxford finished 19th in League One last season, only two places and two points outside of the relegation zone. Survival ensured that they would compete in the third tier for their eighth straight season, having been promoted from League Two back in 2016, when they finished runners-up to Northampton Town.

The Us currently sit in sixth place in the league, following 15 wins, five draws and nine losses so far this season. Their recent form has been mixed, having seen two wins, one draw and two losses in their last five games.

They come into this weekend’s game off the back of a 2-2 midweek draw at home to top-of-the-table Portsmouth.

The two sides last faced each other in December, playing out a 1-1 draw at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, where Sam Smith equalised four minutes after defender Ciaron Brown had headed the Us ahead.

The boss

Des Buckingham: Buckingham took over as Oxford head coach in November, replacing Liam Manning, who joined Bristol City after only eight months in charge at the Us.

Interestingly Buckingham spent time in the youth setups at both Reading and Oxford, but he never became a professional footballer.

He started his coaching career at Oxford at the age of 18, taking on positions in their youth setup. He was promoted to the first team when Chris Wilder joined as manager in 2013.

Buckingham went on to spend time in New Zealand, where he held an assistant-manager role at Wellington Phoenix, before having a short stint as manager in 2017. Coaching roles at Stoke City and the New Zealand international setup followed, before he had a spell in Australia as assistant manager of Melbourne City.

In 2021 Buckingham moved to India to become manager of Mumbai City, where he won the Indian Super League last year.

The 38-year-old likes his teams to play a ruthless attacking style of football and he currently has a 35% win percentage in his 17 games in charge.

Squad

Oxford have boosted their squad this transfer window with the loan signings of winger Tyler Burey and goalkeeper Jamie Cumming, who have joined from Danish side Odense and Chelsea respectively. They have also signed striker Will Goodwin from Cheltenham Town for an undisclosed fee and winger Kyle Edwards, who rejoined the club on a free following his release from Ipswich Town.

The Us also completed the deadline signings of winger Owen Dale from Blackpool and midfielder Jay Matete, who joins on loan from Sunderland.

Midfielder Stan Mills will play no part in this weekend’s game as he is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Goalkeeper Cumming and defender Fin Stevens are doubts as both came off injured in Oxford’s midweek game against Portsmouth. Billy Bodin, Sam Long, Will Goodwin and Josh Murphy are all expected to remain out.

Expected lineup

Eastwood, Stevens, Moore, Brown, Leigh, McGuane, Brannagan, Burey, Goodrham, Rodrigues, M Harris

Key player

Cameron Brannagan: Midfielder Brannagan signed for Oxford in January 2018, joining from Liverpool for an undisclosed fee. He came through the Liverpool youth system and made his debut for them in 2015 in a Europa League match against Bordeaux.

He went on to make nine appearances for the Reds before making a loan move to Fleetwood Town in 2017 for the second half of the season. He made 14 appearances for Fleetwood before returning to Liverpool, where he rejoined their under-23 team.

A permanent move to Oxford followed, where Brannagan has gone on to make 271 appearances, scoring 48 goals. He was named Players' Player of the Year in 2019 in his first full season with the club.

The 27-year-old has represented England at under-18 and under-20 level. He is a high-energy centre midfielder who is comfortable in both defence and attack.

One to watch

Tyler Goodrham: Winger Goodrham is a product of the Oxford youth system and has been at the club since the age of 14, having joined the club from Reading. He made his debut for the club in November 2019 at the age of 16, becoming the Us' youngest-ever player.

Goodrham gained first-team experience during loan spells with Hayes & Yeading and Slough Town. He became a first-team regular last season, playing a part in 44 games, scoring four goals.

He is having an even better season this term, scoring eight goals and logging four assists, signing a new long-term contract with the club earlier this month. Goodrham also received his first international callup for the Reupblic of Ireland under-21s last August.

The 20-year-old can play on either wing and is known for his tireless running and eye for a goal.