MALACHI Napa is ready to answer Oxford United’s call if they need him to play as an unorthodox striker again today.

There are injury doubts over front men Wes Thomas, Jon Obika and Agon Mehmeti ahead of Bristol Rovers’ visit to the Kassam Stadium.

While caretaker boss Derek Fazackerley is hoping to have at least one available, he admitted the display at Charlton Athletic last weekend had given him food for thought.

Napa came on to lead the line at the Valley and caused problems in a fluid attacking unit, rotating with fellow diminutive winger Isaac Buckley-Ricketts.

The 18-year-old, yet to start a game for United, had never played on his own up front before, but would jump at the chance to do so again.

“Of course,” he said. “It didn’t completely change the style of our game, it was just a different mindset. It was sort of a freestyle type of thing.

“Sometimes when you get tired you want another player to go there and make the runs.

“That way there’s always energy in the team, whereas if I was just up there all the time I’d have no legs to run and it looks like I’m not playing.

“It helps the team keep its chemistry.”

While he has made only seven appearances off the bench, Napa’s enthusiasm has made him a big hit with United’s supporters.

Celebrating with the 1,400 travelling fans was a special moment for him a week ago, but he knows that would be surpassed if Rovers can be beaten in front of a big crowd at the Kassam Stadium today.

He said: “I do really appreciate the support. I get a lot of fan messages and they are all encouraging me.

“I thank them as well, so everyone is motivating me and I might bring that motivation and smiles to everyone else.

“Sometimes they feel down because we’re not producing what we should be, which is fair enough.

“But they kept on their feet last week and were motivating us, so we kept going and got the result.

“Hopefully the 9,000 will support us again.”

Rovers could have Tom Lockyer and Daniel Leadbitter available after injury, but former U’s defender James Clarke is a long-term absentee.

Following the sale of Billy Bodin to Preston North End in January, ex-United midfielder Liam Sercombe is their joint top-scorer on ten goals.


Oxford Utd: from Eastwood, Kane, Martin, Mousinho, Smith-Brown, Ledson, Ruffels, Buckley-Ricketts, Mowatt, Rothwell, Thomas, Napa, Mehmeti, Van Kessel, Henry, Carroll, Dickie, Ricardinho, Williamson, Shearer.

Bristol Rov: from Smith, Broadbent, Bola, Partington, Craig, Sercombe, O Clarke, Lines, Sinclair, Harrison, Gaffney, Mensah, Telford, Nichols, Bennett, Sweeney, Brown, Slocombe.