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United striker aims to shoot down leaders
Deane Smalley says the chance to end Gillingham’s perfect away record gives Oxford United added incentive when the sides meet this afternoon.
The Gills have won all five of their away games so far this season – and the Kassam Stadium holds fond memories for the Kent club after a 1-0 win two seasons ago ended an 18-month wait for a win on the road.
Martin Allen’s side have been in terrific form and top the npower League Two table with more than double the points picked up by the U’s so far.
But United will go into the game still fresh from the boost of Tuesday’s 3-2 home win against AFC Wimbledon, which finally stopped a slump in form.
Chris Wilder’s men topped the division themselves in August and Smalley is relishing the chance to take a scalp.
He said: “I think anybody who comes to the Kassam is going to be intimidated by us.
“I didn’t know they had a 100 per cent away record to be honest, but that won’t affect us.
“It’s always nice to end another team’s run – we started the season well and it ended at York, you could see how delighted they were to knock us off our perch. We’ve got to do the same against Gillingham.
“Everyone will be wanting to beat them being at the top.”
Smalley took his goal tally for the season to three with United’s second goal in midweek, surpassing his total from a miserable first season with the club.
The striker said: “I think I’ve had a miles better season already than last year, which didn’t work out.
“This season, I think I’ve been putting in good performances, I’ve scored a few goals but I know I could’ve had a few more.
“It’s something I’ve got to work on in training – to be a bit more consistent in front of goal. Hopefully, I can do that in the next few games.”
United’s main fitness concerns are over three players who picked up injuries on Tuesday.
Michael Raynes (hamstring) is likely to miss out for the first time this season, with Harry Worley set to come in at centre half.
After two games on the bench Ryan Clarke is expected to return in goal, replacing Wayne Brown (groin).
The U’s are more hopeful over Lee Cox (groin), but if the midfielder misses out Adam Chapman, who is in contention following an ankle injury, or Simon Heslop will take his place.
Gillingham have few such worries. Combative midfielder Charlie Lee is their main doubt, while Danny Jackman and Charlie Allen are ruled out through suspension.
Oxford Utd: from Clarke, Batt, Worley, Wright, O’Brien, Potter, Cox, Forster-Caskey, Rigg, Craddock, Smalley, Constable, Heslop, Boateng, Capaldi, Chapman, Brown, Leven, Marsh, Crocombe.
Gillingham: from Nelson, Fish, Barrett, Flanagan, Martin, Whelpdale, Wright, Payne, Weston, Kedwell, Burton, Forecast, Montrose, Frampton, Dack, Strevens, Findley, Davies.