Oxford v AFC Wimbledon: Payne the key

Jack a Payne for defences – oxfordmail.co.uk

Jack Payne was a little unlucky not to get more game-time in the Championship with Huddersfield, but he has once again shown his class at this level with Oxford United.

The ex-Southend number 10 excels at finding pockets of space in front of the defence to create openings. Although he didn’t score at Peterborough last week, his movement and link-up play in the second half was key to the 4-1 win. His intelligence brings out the best in midfielders like Joe Rothwell, who loves to break forward from deep, as we saw for the third goal.

Rothwell is one of nine different players to have scored for the U’s in the league, so varied is their threat. By contrast, AFC Wimbledon have just three goalscorers and one of them is holding midfielder Nadjim Abdou, whose only strike came on the opening day 1-1 draw with Scunthorpe.

That second half display at Glanford Park inspired some optimism for the season ahead. However, they failed to score in seven of the subsequent 10 games, leaving them inside the bottom four on goal difference at this early stage.

They are short on attacking options, to the extent that defender Darius Charles was deployted up top in the last 10 minutes at Southend. Charles has played as a striker previously in his career, but his use does call into question the decision not to add a like-for-like replacement for Tom Elliott.

Cody McDonald is a good goalscorer but he isn’t the biggest and has, historically, played best with a target man alongside him. When Lyle Taylor drifts out wide or Andy Barcham tracks back to help out George Francomb, he can become isolated, which makes it hard to get quality service into him.

The speedy Kwesi Appiah might have fancied his chances on the break against Mike Williamson, who is not the quickest. However, the ex-Newcastle centre-back was dropped at Peterborough in favour of a partnership of Curtis Nelson and John Mousinho. The latter has some experience, having won two promotions with Burton, but he is also a little quicker than Williamson and suits Oxford’s possession play more.

On the left-wing, Rob Hall has stepped up another level this term and could cause problems for Barry Fuller, for whom age is catching up. Oxford just need to use the craft of Payne to bring him, Rothwell and others into play.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 2-0