CHRIS Wilder is confident Luke McCormick will cope on his first Football League appearance in almost five years as he starts for Oxford United this afternoon.

The 29-year-old goalkeeper signed just before the transfer deadline on Thursday night and will come straight into the XI at Southend United.

Max Crocombe, who made his senior debut in the 1-1 draw with Burton Albion on Tuesday, will drop to the bench, but the teenager has the consolation of a new contract.

McCormick has not played in the Football League since May 2008, just before the drink-driving crash which killed two children.

After three and a half years in prison he was released last summer, but has only played a handful of games since joining Blue Square Bet South side Truro City in November.

Despite his relative lack of match action, Wilder believes McCormick’s greater experience will be valuable against a strong Southend side.

He said: “Luke will start – playing away from home at Southend is different to playing at home to Burton.

“We’ve done extensive homework on him, in terms of speaking to players he’s played with recently and people in that area.

“We know he’s ready and can handle the game, no problem.”

It means Crocombe will not have a chance to build on his encouraging debut, but the 19-year-old has been boosted by news of a new deal.

The goalkeeper is one of 16 United first-team players out of contract this summer, but Wilder is keen to keep him when the club begin contract talks next month.

He said: “Max has done great and he’ll be offered a new contract – he’s part of our plans going forward.”

Michael Duberry will be out for up to a month with the hamstring injury he picked up against Burton, so Michael Raynes will come into the back four today.

U’s are unlikely to risk Lewis Montrose, whose hamstring strain has not yet healed, but Peter Leven has recovered from the illness which forced him off in midweek.

Liam Davis could be among the substitutes after a lay-off with a hamstring problem.

Southend, who are seventh in the npower League Two table, signed two players on loan, who are in line to make their debuts.

Ben Reeves, who has played three games in the Premier League this season, signed from Southampton and can play in either defence or midfield.

Northern Ireland Under 21 striker Carolan Lavery has also joined, moving from Sheffield Wednesday.

Oxford Utd: from McCormick, Batt, Raynes, Wright, O'Brien, Potter, Chapman, Leven, Rigg, Constable, Craddock, Richards, Parker, Heslop, Montrose, Davis, Worley, Capaldi, Crocombe.

Southend Utd: from Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Phillips, Barker, Hurst, Spillane, Timlin, Leonard, Tomlin, Corr, Bentley, Straker, Laird, Prosser, Harris, Eastwood, Lavery, Assombalonga, Reeves.

  • In yesterday’s Oxford Mail the game was incorrectly described as all-ticket and supporters can buy tickets from Roots Hall today.