A FORTNIGHT after their worst performance of the season, Oxford United emerge from their winter break tomorrow with Chris Wilder looking for a return to form from his side.
For anyone in doubt over what is required, Saturday’s opposition will serve as a timely reminder.
The U’s host Portsmouth, who were comprehensively dismantled 4-1 on the opening day of the season.
It was a stunning and thoroughly deserved result which will live long in the memories of the 2,500 jubilant fans who made the trip down the A34.
Portsmouth remain Sky Bet League Two’s biggest attraction and Wilder is relishing another meeting after a near-perfect start to the season.
He said: “It set the standard and set an expectancy.
“The support that day was phenomenal and I think the support went home believing that we could have a successful season. We’re still in there.”
The win got United off to a flying start and they have not been out of the top six since.
If it provided them with the momentum to build a good start, it had the opposite effect on Portsmouth, who have been in the bottom half for almost the whole of the campaign.
Manager Richie Barker, who only took over last month, made it clear the result has not been forgotten.
He said: “They had a fantastic result here on the first day of the season.
“Everyone is aware of that game here. We’ll be looking to put that game right.”
United are in need of another confidence boost following home defeats over Christmas to Plymouth and Scunthorpe.
Postponements at Newport and Charlton mean they have not played since December 29, so have been unable to respond to the 2-0 loss against the Iron.
Wilder, who blasted his players after the setback, said: “There always is criticism and negativity when you lose.
“The only way everybody can turn that around is showing it on the pitch. I think it’s an absolute top game for players to be involved in.”
It is just over a month since Portsmouth spoke to Wilder about replacing Guy Whittingham, which ended with Barker taking over at Fratton Park.
But the U’s boss dismissed any suggestion it added spice to tomorrow’s game.
“Not at all,” he said.
“It’s not about me or their manager, it’s about the players on show – always has been and always will be.”