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Skipper Wright says U's fans can help roar them to victory
Jake Wright has urged Oxford United’s fans to produce another big performance today when play-off rivals Gillingham visit.
Both sides are suffering ill-timed blips in form and with only four games left, need to rediscover a winning habit to keep their respective promotion hopes intact.
The U’s go into the game four points ahead of the Kent club, but anything other than a victory could see them drop out of the top seven for the first time since January.
A big crowd is expected at the Kassam Stadium and Wright made it clear the home fans have a crucial role to play as United look to end a three-game winless run.
“The supporters just need to keep doing what they’ve done recently, they get behind us home and away and it does help keep you going in the last 15 minutes,” the United skipper said.
“Keep turning up in your numbers and if we keep playing like we have we’ll all get the rewards.”
The reverse fixture in October saw the Gills win 1-0 despite finishing a bad-tempered game with nine men, while the U’s picked up six bookings.
Given the context of the game, Wright admitted staying calm was more important than ever.
He said: “You have to keep cool heads and stick together, we’ve got a really good team spirit.”
“I don’t have to motivate the lads because everyone wants to play.”
The main selection headache for the U’s is in goal, where Ryan Clarke will be given until this afternoon to recover from a muscle injury around his ribs.
If he misses a league game for the first time in two seasons, Wayne Brown will deputise for his first competitive action since November.
There is likely to be a change in the back four, with Harry Worley expected to make way for Michael Duberry after the veteran completed a suspension.
It is too soon for Peter Leven and Simon Heslop, while up front, Scott Rendell could be preferred to James Constable after impressing as a substitute in Monday’s 2-2 draw with Torquay United.
Gillingham have plenty of striking options, with Gavin Tomlin and Jo Kuffour fit to compete for selection with Danny Kedwell and Rowan Vine.
Andy Hessenthaler’s side, whose play-off hopes would be ended by a defeat, do have problems in midfield though, with influential trio Jack Payne, Charlie Lee and Danny Jackman all ruled out.
Oxford Utd: Clarke, Batt, Duberry, Wright, Davis, Chapman, Whing, Hall, Montano, Rendell, Morgan, Brown, Worley, Wilson, Constable, Johnson, Pittman, Tonkin.
Gillingham: Gazzaniga, Fish, Essam, Frampton, Martin, Whelpdale, Montrose, Vine, Kedwell, Tomlin, Kuffour, O Lee, King, Oli, Spiller, Evans, Hawkes.