Oxford United got their pre-season campaign off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory over Conference South side Farnborough. Goals from first year professionals James Roberts and Josh Ashby were enough to see off Farnborough whose goal came from a wonder strike from inside his own half by Brazilian trialist Lucas Enrique.
It has been all change at the Kassam Stadium this summer with a new chairman and chief executive as well as the appointment of Michael Appleton as head coach to replace the sacked Gary Waddock. Former Portsmouth, Blackpool and Blackburn boss Appleton was only appointed on 4th July so will be delighted that his first full week in charge finished with a victory.
New chairman Darryl Eales and incoming chief executive Mark Ashton have both indicated that funds will be made available for Appleton to strengthen a squad that looks very small on paper. This is perhaps something that will irritate the sacked Waddock who was facing strict limitations on his transfer dealings with the suggestion of only one further addition to come alongside former Rotherham striker Danny Hylton. It was Waddock who knew better than most the size of the task he faced after just one victory from his eight games in charge at the back-end of last season.
For Appleton, who has indicated that he would like a minimum of four signings, the position at Oxford represents a change to rebuild his credentials after short spells at Blackpool and Blackburn followed a traumatic experience at Portsmouth. Having previously earned a glowing reputation in the game for his coaching ability, firstly as a youth coach at West Brom before later serving as assistant manager to both Roberto Di Matteo and Roy Hodgson.
Of the 21 players used at Farnborough, 9 featured in the development squad last season, 2 were current members of the existing youth teams and 2 were trialists. The absences of Ryan Clarke and Andy Whing which are likely to continue into the first month of the season alongside the missing Hylton, Meades, Ruffels and O’Dowda highlighted the importance for the introduction of new faces into the United squad.
Next up is the annual game at Oxford City on Tuesday night where Appleton will get to take another look at his inherited squad but may also hope to have wrapped up one if not two new signings before hand. With the first game of the season against Burton less than a month away, the U’s new manager faces a hectic few weeks to ensure his side hit the ground running.