Oxford United fired up for opener

Oxford United will wait until this morning before deciding whether Jon-Paul Pittman is fit enough for the opening match of the season at Bristol Rovers today

Oxford United will wait until this morning before deciding whether Jon-Paul Pittman is fit enough for the opening match of the season at Bristol Rovers today

First published in United News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Sports Reporter covering Oxford United. Follow us on twitter: @oxfordmailoufc. Call me on 01865 425458

CHRIS Wilder is urging his Oxford United side to get the new season off to a flying start today.

The U’s take on Bristol Rovers in their opening npower League Two match this afternoon.

And United’s manager knows that Rovers – like his own side – are rated among the leading contenders for promotion.

However, he is keen to be among the leading pack by this evening.

He said: “We never go away from home and think ‘we’re going to shut up shop and see if we can hang on and get something out of the game’ – we’ll be going for a win.

“Yet again it’ll be a good gate, probably one of the highest in our league, with a healthy away following, and hopefully we can get the first points on the board.”

Wilder will decide this morning whether to risk Jon-Paul Pittman.

The striker missed Tuesday’s Capital One Cup win over Bourne-mouth with a minor groin strain.

United’s boss is wary of rushing Pittman back, particularly with five other senior players unavailable due to injury.

He said: “We’ll leave it until the last minute to see where he’s at. “With all these things, you don’t want to chuck him in for one game if it risks losing him, I can’t really afford to do that.”

James Constable came off against Bournemouth with a dead leg, but it is not expected to keep him out.

It means the U’s starting line-up could be unchanged, although Alex Evans will be included in the squad after receiving international clearance for the Welshman.

The game has been given an extra edge by Rovers’ continued attempts to sign Constable this summer.

Rovers boss Mark McGhee had been hoping for a definitive answer after stating that a third bid has been made before the weekend, but the situation remains unresolved.

He said: “It is one of these things that, as it has gone on for so long, is unfortunate because I don’t like to go into games surrounded by this sort of uncertainty.”

Oxford United: from Clarke, Batt, Raynes, Wright, Capaldi, Cox, Chapman, Forster-Caskey, Potter, Constable, Rigg, Heslop, Evans, Smalley, Craddock, McGinty, Marsh, Pittman, Brown.

Bristol Rovers: from Walker, Smith, Virgo, Patterson, L Brown, W Brown, Gill, Norburn, Anyinsah, Harrold, Clarkson, Lund, Clucas, Clarke, Gough, Staley, Harding, Broghammer.

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