After losing in the playoffs last season, Oxford United kicked off the new campaign in impressive form as they targeted promotion to the second tier this time around, with Karl Robinson’s men establishing themselves in the top six with 42 points from the opening 23 games.
However, they have struggled to build on that strong first half in recent weeks, firstly having to escape from a home clash with a struggling Cheltenham Town side with a 1-1 draw thanks to Mark Sykes’s 82nd-minute equaliser.
The U’s have since suffered back-to-back 2-0 defeats heading into Saturday, firstly falling to Lincoln City as Anthony Scully and Morgan Whittaker sent them home empty-handed before Curtis Thompson and Brandon Hanlan condemned them to a loss at the hands of high-flying Wycombe Wanderers.
As a result of their dip in form, Robinson’s men have now dropped out of the playoff places, currently occupying seventh spot albeit with the chance to jump back into the top six if they better Plymouth Argyle’s result when the Pilgrims take on Lincoln.
They welcome a Sheffield Wednesday side who now sit just three points worse off with a game in hand.
Following their relegation from the Championship last season under Darren Moore, the Owls have struggled to establish long runs of consistency, but they remain well in the hunt for the playoff places nonetheless.
After consecutive defeats to Sunderland and Shrewsbury Town, the first of which being a 5-0 thrashing, the Yorkshire outfit went two weeks without a game, but they returned in style at the weekend against sixth-placed Plymouth Argyle.
Sylla Sow and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing gave the Owls a two-goal lead at the break, and, while Adam Randell pulled a goal back for the hosts early in the second half, Sam Hutchinson and Josh Windass ensured they came out with a 4-2 victory – a Marvin Johnson own goal being the only other blemish on an impressive home win.
By picking up a crucial win and simultaneously harming a rival, Moore’s men hugely boosted their playoff hopes, and they have the chance to do the same again on Saturday against a side who sit just three points ahead with the top six also just three points away