Darryl Eales'notes from the Luton matchday magazineWelcome to today's game against Luton Town. It is a pleasure to host their fans, players and officials this afternoon. Luton are enjoying a fine season to date and they are sure to provide a stern test as we seek back-to-back victories and an improvement in our home form.
Oxford against Luton is a rarity in the football calendar: it is the only fixture that has been played at every level from the top flight right through to the Conference. As a result of some fantastic games in recent years a passionate rivalry has developed which should provide for a fantastic atmosphere this afternoon.
Last Saturday we travelled to another club that were huge rivals during those Conference years, Stevenage. It was a highly competitive game on a challenging pitch but our resilience and commitment provided the back bone for a clean sheet and a well-deserved victory. Once again, the away supporters really were the 12th man and were in fine voice throughout the game.
Immediately after the game, I had to leave for Asia on business and missed the Oxford United Women who were in action for the first time this season against Coventry City Ladies. Despite the result, there were many positives from the game and I look forward to a further season of progress. As I said in my notes for that game, the Women's team is an integral part of how we wish to take the club forward and I am sure we wish them success in the season ahead.
Over the past couple of weeks, much of the focus has been on the transfer window. We wanted to strengthen the squad and are delighted with the arrival of Alex MacDonald and Joe Skarz on long-term contracts, together with Richard Brindley on an initial one-month loan and Jamie Ashdown, who joined on Tuesday. All are experienced players who have achieved success at this level and will bring much-needed competition for places.
Whilst on-the-pitch success is our ultimate yardstick, we have made it a clear priority to bring the club closer to the community on as many fronts as we can.
The last two games have seen us welcome the young players from the Oxford Mail Youth League to receive their medals and trophies. It is fantastic to see so many young footballers coming together from across the county to celebrate achievement. Let's hope that some of the youngsters go on and emulate the seven local lads who were in the first team squad for the last home game against Exeter City!
We were also delighted to participate in the ‘United we Achieve’ initiative this week, which seeks to support individuals who have been looking for employment since leaving school but have found it tough going. By involving the football club and inviting guest speakers not only from within the club but also from the army and local businesses we hope we have offered some advice and guidance to help them along their career paths. I had the pleasure of giving a short speech around 'keys to success' and I very much hope that the experience allows them to gain their first break in the job market.
Around the club generally, I am delighted that we are making positive changes and are heading in the right direction. There is always more to be done and we continue to encourage feedback as to the key issues which concern fans.
Clearly and understandably, our league position is one issue which weighs on the minds of all of us. There is absolute focus across the playing and coaching staff on improving results which will enable us to look up the table rather than down.
With 18 games to go, there is still a huge amount to play for as the table is very congested and a couple more good results will change the outlook.
Today's game will be tough but I hope we can build on last week and deliver another three points.
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