U's can't control the Pack
November has been a rather humbling month for Oxford and Cheltenham could be set to compound matters with victory at the Kassam Stadium on Saturday.
The U's came into this season being talked about as promotion contenders after some eye-catching acquisitions in the summer and when the clocks went back at the end of last month, the optimism that surrounded Chris Wilder's men appeared to be well-founded.
Oxford were sitting pretty in fourth position, level on points with third-place Morecambe and, secretly perhaps, entertaining ideas of unseating the top two, against whom they would be up against in their next two league matches.
However, if they went into those game unaware of the standards they need to set in order to get out of the division, they know now. Defeats against leaders Southend (twice) and second-placed Crawley have sandwiched an FA Cup tie at Sheffield United in which the dream of an upset was over inside 20 minutes, leaving Wilder with a fortnight to reflect after Saturday's match and we suspect the Robins might give him just as much to think about as the Shrimpers and the Red Devils.
Whether Cheltenham can stay with the League Two promotion pace is a matter for debate but there's no mistaking the quality of their stride right now as a genuine live threat to the top two.
The Robins have won eight of their last nine matches and while the likes of Dagenham, Accrington, Plymouth and Bradford don't compile the most formidable hitlist, any question marks about their ability to win a fixture of this calibre were well and truly answered by the 1-0 FA Cup win at Tranmere a fortnight ago.
The mood around Whaddon Road is evidently special at the moment with players falling over themselves to tell the media that they've never enjoyed playing the game so much. This week, it was the turn of striker Kaid Mohamed and midfielder Marlon Pack.
Of course, football has habit of kicking people in the teeth when they least expect it and the cynic within us says the current sense of liberation in the Cheltenham ranks won't last, but we'd want want a lot shorter than 11/4 about the away win this weekend before we'd stop short of backing it. We had this selection earmarked as a possibility at the start of the week when the Robins went up at the early price of 5/2.
As is so often the case when a team finds its mojo, the underlying principle is hard work and we like the look of fancy prices about Cheltenham to win 1-0 and Cheltenham to win 2-0 on the promise that the visitors will be prepared to put in a shift that earns them the right to play their football.
Clean sheets have been the bedrock of their success in recent weeks and another one in this game would be their fifth on the bounce away from home, which makes a mockery of the prices available on the above scores.
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