League One preview: Oxford United vs. Millwall

NEIL Harris says he isn’t bothered by the earlier kick-off time of 1pm when Millwall meet Oxford this Saturday.

The fixture at The Kassam Stadium was brought forward by two hours based on police advice.

Despite the relatively close destination, the Lions will travel to Oxford on Friday for an overnight stay.

“It’s one we would have gone on the day but we’ll go the day before,” Harris said. “Sometimes that helps the players because some of them have got kids on half-term staying up late. So sometimes it’s good to get away and have a settled night.

“I like the away trips. I like the banter on the bus and at the hotel we can get everyone together and have a coffee in the afternoon.”

It’s the first time this season Harris will have a full squad to choose from as Millwall look to build on a run of three wins in four games.

Shaun Cummings and Shaun Hutchinson played 90 minutes in the U23s’ 5-1 win over QPR on Monday.

Coincidentally, Cummings’ last first-team appearance was almost nine months ago against Oxford in the second leg of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy semi-final in February.

Hutchinson made just his second senior appearance of the season when he came on in the last minute in the 2-1 win over Fleetwood when he showed his defensive instinct at set-pieces by making two headed clearances.

If Harris decides he needs Hutchinson’s bulk and his defensive presence and organisation, then he will have a selection dilemma at left-back, with Tony Craig, Joe Martin and Shane Ferguson all options to start in that position.

Oxford, who got promoted last season, are a point above Millwall in the League One table in 14th place.

Michael Appleton’s side have won just two of their last nine games in all competitions, however, and Harris believes Millwall showed against Fleetwood that they are getting back towards their best.

“Oxford are a good footballing side with some good players,” Harris said. “They’ve been a team that’s been on the up over the last 18 months.

“They’ve been a little bit up and down over the last few weeks as they try to find their feet in the division. But they’re a dangerous side so it’s going to be a tough game as ever at this level.

“We’ll have to defend every bit as well as we did last week and use the ball with quality going forward. We look a very dangerous side when we do what we’re good at. There were moments last week when we looked more composed on the ball.

“When we went in front by two goals, and even at 2-1, we had some great passages of play. The boys have started playing with more freedom again and with confidence and belief, and that’s important.

“But when we play like that we have to be more consistent over 90 minutes. When we do that we’re a difficult team to play against.”

Oxford, who lost 1-0 to Millwall at The Kassam Stadium last season in the second leg of that JPT tie but progressed to the final having won 2-0 at The Den, will again be without Ryan Ledson and Rob Hall.

Defender Christian Ribeiro and striker Wes Thomas are also out.

Appleton’s side conceded their fourth penalty of the season against Port Vale last weekend. Lee Gregory, scorer of the winning goal against Oxford in February, has scored five of the Lions’ eight successful spot-kicks this season.

Millwall record against Oxford:

Played 49

Won 22 Drawn 11 Lost 16

Form guide:

Oxford: DLWLD

Millwall: LWWLW

Probable Millwall team:

Millwall: 4-4-2: Archer; Romeo, Webster, Hutchinson, Craig; Onyedinma, Thompson, Williams, Ferguson; Gregory, Morison.

Match odds:

Oxford 13/8 Draw 23/10 Millwall 13/8

Image source: ©Millwall FC

John Kelly

(@jkelly1882)