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Smalley plays a waiting game
Deane Smalley is back in Oxford United’s matchday squad today, but the striker knows the team’s form means he may have to wait for an opportunity to play.
The U’s head north for a first meeting with Fleetwood Town on the back of four successive npower League Two wins.
It is the club’s best run in the Football League since 1996 and has carried them back into the top half of the table.
Smalley will boost their attacking options after more than three months out with a groin injury, but is unlikely to claim a starting spot.
The 24-year-old is aware he could have to bide his time before getting a chance to add to his three goals this season.
He said: “It’s not about me, it’s about the team and they’re in a really good position. “There’s a couple of games in hand and if we win those it would put us right up in the play-off positions. “The team is playing well and I might have to wait for a spot in the team because the strikers are doing really well.
“Justin (Richards) has come in and been brilliant. He’s been a great loan signing, so I’ve just got to be patient.”
The return to fitness of Smalley and Adam Chapman means for virtually the first time this term U’s will have more than 18 senior players available.
Boss Chris Wilder will have to decide whether to stick with the 3-4-3 system which served them so well in the 2-1 win at Bradford in their last game, or revert to 4-4-2.
Liam Davis (hamstring) is ruled out, but Luke O’Brien is back after signing a new contract, providing his partner does not go into labour this morning.
James Constable is unavailable as he serves the final game of a suspension.
United’s home game against Rotherham United was one of the fixtures which fell to victim a week ago, so they have not had a run-out for a fortnight.
No such problems are expected at Highbury this afternoon and United assistant manager Mickey Lewis believes the break will fire up the visitors.
He said: “I think you’ll find that after missing a Saturday and not playing for two weeks the lads really are champing at the bit to play, even more than normal.
“We’re in really good form, but we won’t take anything for granted.”
Fleetwood yesterday signed midfielder Paul McKenna on loan from Hull City and he comes straight into their squad.
Experienced defender Youl Mawene is available again after injury, but striker Jon Parkin is not thought to be ready despite returning to training.
The Cod Army sit three places above the U’s in the table, but have lost to Northampton and Bristol Rovers in their last two games.
Fleetwood Tn: (from) Davies, Beeley, Atkinson, Goodall, Howell, Evans, Marrow, Barry, Brown, Matt, Ball, Nicholson, Mawene, Maxwell, McNulty, Pond, McGuire, Johnson, Allen, Titchiner, McKenna.
Oxford Utd: (from) Brown, Batt, Duberry, Wright, Capaldi, Potter, Montrose, Leven, Rigg, Richards, Craddock, Marsh, Parker, Smalley, Chapman, Heslop, Worley, Raynes, O’Brien, Crocombe.