OXFORD United have a surprise up their sleeve for derby rivals Swindon Town after last night signing striker Guy Whittingham on a month's loan from Portsmouth, writes JON MURRAY.

The 35-year-old former Oxford City, Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday goal-machine is Mike Ford's first signing since he became caretaker manager at the Manor.

But all the groundwork for the signing was done by Denis Smith in his new advisory role.

Whittingham, who has not played for Pompey since February, goes straight into the United team in tomorrow's Division 2 derby at the County Ground (2pm) and could form a partnership with the U's other loan signing, Leon Mike.

And Ford had another surprise for Swindon as he decided to keep his line-up a closely-guarded secret.

He instructed his players not to reveal who would be playing, or what formation he would use.

Whittingham began his football life at Oxford City, whom he played for when he was in the Army.

He then moved to Yeovil and Portsmouth, becoming a huge hit at Fratton Park with 88 goals in 160 league games.

Now in his second spell at Portmouth, he is reported to be still very fit.

He was loaned to Peterborough earlier in the season but Posh boss Barry Fry could not afford to keep him because of his wages. However, he will be on a relatively modest 2,000 a week during his month at the Manor.

For the Swindon game, Ford said: "I'm trying to keep the line-up to myself. There's a slight tinkering of the team that went out last week. I'm just trying to get the best out of certain players," he added.

That could mean Joey Beauchamp, who spent two seasons at the County Ground, being given more freedom.

"I think we need to concentrate more on the team trying to win matches," he said, "so I've tried to keep them away from other distractions."

United are looking for their first victory in Wiltshire since 1973 before most of the current United side were born.

Town have Juan Cobian, an Argentine who used to play in the same Boca Juniors side as Diego Maradona, and Antoine Van Der Linden, a Dutch defender, on the bench. as boss Colin Todd sticks by the side which drew 2-2 with Wigan.