JAMES Clarke is ruled out of Oxford United's televised Blue Square Premier match at Mansfield tonight – Jim Smith's first as caretaker manager.

But the U's have Phil Trainer and Jamie Guy available for selection again. Both players have recovered from the virus which kept them out of last Saturday's FA Cup tie at Torquay.

Barry Quinn, who is sidelined anyway with his ankle injury, has now picked up the virus!

Right back Clarke could be out for a couple of weeks because he has a slight tear in his ankle ligaments.

Already ruled out of next Tuesday's league game at Weymouth through suspension anyway, Clarke seems unlikely to be fit until the middle of the month.

Smith says he is looking to make probably one change, in addition to that at right back, but he hadn't totally made up his mind after training yesterday.

The team have worked on a different formation, involving three up front, but Smith said he would think it over.

"I've got to sleep on it . . . it's back to having no sleep again!" he said.

One alteration he may give some thought to is whether to give Sam Deering a much-needed breather.

The Bald Eagle stressed both this and the Weymouth games are important to United, because they would like to end their poor away form and enable any new manager to hit the ground running when he comes in.

"It's a big period for us,” he said. “We've got to try and get some good league results.

"We're too near the bottom, that's a worry. But we also know in this league when you get a strong run going, you can catch a lot of clubs up.

"I believe, anyway, that it's an ordinary league this year. The standard hasn't been as good as normal. You see that from one team going top, then somebody else.

"Burton are a very consistent side, but there's no outstanding team."

Smith says he had just a short chat with the players when he came in on Monday, the day after the club parted company with Darren Patterson.

"Kelvin had a chat, then I had a brief chat with the players. It's always a sad time, because somebody's lost their job."

One of Mansfield Town’s two ex-United players is ruled out of tonight’s clash.

Stags left back Alex Jeannin will play, despite a hip injury.

However, left winger Michael Blackwood, who spent three months on loan to Oxford from Kidderminster last season, is ruled out by the ankle injury he sustained in the FA Cup-tie at York last month.

Mansfield will also be without on-loan Sheffield United central defender Max Chanot, who was sent off in the 1-1 draw at Weymouth at the weekend.

It was his second red card, and he’s only been with Mansfield for less than two months. He’s been handed a four-match ban.

Boss Billy McEwan, a very close friend of Smith, has three other loan players – goalkeeper Paddy Gamble and striker Emile Sinclair, from Nottingham Forest, and midfielder Adnan Ahmed, from Tranmere.

Lining up alongside Sinclair is 37-year-old Jason Lee, with top scorer Mark Stallard, 34, on the bench.

Tonight is the first time Mansfield have had a home game screened by Setanta.

They have failed to win a live game this campaign, losing 1-0 at Burton and drawing 1-1 at York.

Mansfield Tn: (from) Gamble, Silk, Moses, O’Hare, Jeannin, Ahmed, D’Laryea, Somner, Arnold, Sinclair, Lee, Wood, Stallard, Herriott, Hurren, O’Connor.

Oxford Utd: (from) Turley, Burnell, Day, Foster, Carruthers, Deering, Haldane, Hutchinson, Murray, Trainer, Constable, Odubade, Guy, Hinchliffe, Willmott, Groves, Fisher, Taylor.