Oldham Athletic will look to secure consecutive Vanarama National League wins for the first time this season when they host Oxford City.
Interim boss Steve Thompson took charge of his first fixture in the fifth tier of English football and steered Oldham to a first win since August which ended a seven-game winless run that saw Latics drop briefly into the drop zone.
The 2-0 triumph at Boundary Park in midweek was a refreshing sight for Oldham who had struggled to get going in the National League. It also welcomed fresh names to the scoresheet, Joe Nuttall early on produced an excellent finish into the top corner before Alex Reid came off the bench to muscle his first of the season into the back of the net.
It was Latic’s third clean sheet of the season and the first in a win which would have surely brought some much-needed confidence to goalkeeper Mathew Hudson and the defensive line, whilst the win immediately brought Oldham into the midfield pack that separates ninth and twentieth by just three points.
They next will face an Oxford side who are well in that pack just a point ahead of Latics, albeit five places above them, proving just how tight the battle for those final play-off spots will be in the final days of the season.
Thompson will be wary of his team selection ahead of the contest. It is still unclear whether midfielder Dan Ward will be available following his absence in midweek, whilst striker James Norwood will be available after serving his one-match ban.
Captain Liam Hogan, Nathan Sheron and wide man Brennan Dickenson are all one yellow card away from suspension which will surely come into consideration for Thompson considering all three started against York.
Oxford meanwhile recovered an unlikely point at Eastleigh in midweek after a Scott Quigley double had the hosts 2-0 to the good with just over ten minutes to go.
A Lewis Coyle stunner however brought Oxford back into the game before Latrell Humphrey-Ewers bobbled his first goal of the season into the bottom corner after his initial free-kick attempt hit the wall.
It was not the first time that Oxford have recovered from going behind in a game this season, in fact they have made it a habit. Before midweek they came back twice against Hartlepool to win the game 5-2, as well as recovering a point at Halifax earlier on in the season.
The draw did mean Oxford continued their seven-game unbeaten run in the National League which has albeit seen them win just twice in that period, but it has seen Ross Jenkins lead a more consistent outfit week in week out.
Before this run Oxford had not begun the season well, conceding three consecutive defeats to Aldershot, Rochdale and Chesterfield but Jenkins has certainly steadied the ship in his second full season as boss, though he surely would appreciate a higher number in the win column.
Meanwhile he has got his side scoring goals which will be appreciated. They rank fourth in goals scored (18), whilst perhaps more impressively, Oxford have netted at least twice in five games and at least four twice, showing they certainly have got a clinical touch in front of goal.
Jenkins will also be pleased to have no fresh injury news to deal with ahead of the weekend, so the Oxford boss will have a full squad to choose from ahead of an important fixture.
Lewis Coyle got his 2023/24 campaign up and running in midweek with a special strike from the edge of the box that clawed his side back into contention. Shifting it rapidly on his left foot and curling a fierce effort into the top corner, he will certainly hope it will open the floodgates in front of goal.
The midfielder is tricky and agile, and proved to be a real threat in the end at Eastleigh, but before then had yet to show his qualities on a consistent basis, despite starting nine of the ten fixtures played so far.
He has had the tendency to drift wide for Oxford this season, and is more than capable, but his real quality has come from central areas where he can link and combine with his teammates, while he will look to drive those contributions up for his side.
Thompson will have to consider how to limit the space in those tight spaces behind his midfield because that is where Coyle can be lethal. All he may need is half a yard, which is how he punctured a hole through Eastleigh’s backline, which must keep Oldham wary.
In the hot seat
His manager meanwhile has had an enjoyable period so far at Oxford since his appointment in March 2022. Approaching three quarters of a century of games in charge of the club, Jenkins has built strong foundations in his first managerial role.
He immediately made a positive impact. Coming in at the end of the 2021/22 season in the National League South, Jenkins helped Oxford to a strong fifth placed finish but could not get past the Semi-Final of the play-offs following a 3-0 loss to Dorking Wanderers.
However, in what was his first full season as manager, he really showed his qualities. Leading his Oxford side to an even better third place, he had his eyes set on the National League, and he reached that landmark in smooth fashion.
Oxford cruised through the 2022/23 playoffs without conceding a goal. First getting past Worthing by two goals to nil before a 4-0 rout of St Albans in the final set the celebrations off at Court Place Farm.
That Oxford side also went on a ten-game unbeaten run on their way to promotion, just showing the sort of level Jenkins can get his side playing to, whilst just four more games without defeat will make it the longest run, he has overseen his Oxford side to.
Meanwhile the man from Watford will be up against a side with an air of uncertainty around the club with Oldham still without a new first team manager, however, it could make them even more dangerous prospect to face, and therefore Jenkins must have his team on their game if he wishes for the run to go on.
The referee will be Paul Marsden, who will be assisted by Jonathan Wyatt and Alistair Nelson. The fourth official will be Daniel McDonald.
Match coverage and information
Live audio commentary is available on Latics Player, guiding you through the match.
Alternatively, supporters can also follow the game with live updates on the club's official Twitter account: @OfficialOAFC
As this game is being played within the blocked broadcast hours stipulated by UEFA, live streaming will not be available through National League TV for supporters in the UK. The game will be available overseas.
As always, we will endeavour to ensure confirmation of the line-up is published as soon as possible.
However, supporters should note that team sheets in the National League are exchanged 15 minutes later than in the EFL and as a result, the line-up is likely to be published slightly later than in previous seasons.