Oxford United boss Michael Appleton admits he is bored of talk surrounding Chris Wilder’s return to the Kassam Stadium with the Cobblers.
The Town manager quit Oxford in somewhat acrimonious circumstances two years ago to take over at Sixfields, and it is still a sore point with some of the Us fans the way he left the club.
Wilder has already been back to the Kassam with the Cobblers last April, a low-key end-of-season match that ended 1-1, but with so much at stake on Tuesday he can still expect a warm reception from some sections of the home support.
But Appleton insists Wilder returning to his old stomping ground is irrelevant as his third-placed side try to close the nine-point gap between them and leaders Northampton in Sky Bet League Two.
“I’m sure Chris gets bored of people talking about him coming back to Oxford, I know I do,” said the former Blackburn Rovers and Portsmouth manager.
“It’s a game between Northampton and Oxford.
“They are flying high and we’re not doing bad in third, with a cup final to look forward to, and we’re looking forward to the game as much as they are.”
Wilder decided not to partake in the pre-match press duties this week, instead leaving it to his assistant Alan Knill, who echoed Appleton’s sentiments.
“Chris was the ex-manager there two years ago now, and we are going into this the same as any other game,” said Knill.
“Chris just said to me in the morning ‘will you do the press?’, and I said ‘yeah, okay’, just because he doesn’t really want to face any questions about being the ex-Oxford manager, so this suits everybody.
“I can’t emphasise any more that for us this is just another game, and it doesn’t matter who the opposition is.”
The Cobblers were emphatic 4-0 winners at Leyton Orient on Saturday, their seventh straight league win, but Oxford go into Tuesday’s game on the back of an impressive victory of their own, having triumphed 4-2 at Morecambe on Saturday.
The Us will be desperate to win to keep in touch with the Cobblers at the top of the table, but Appleton knows it is more important they don’t lose the game.
If Town were to win at the Kassam, then they would be 12 points clear of Oxford, and that might be too much of a mountain for the Us to climb over the last 16 games of the season.
“We’ve had a good victory and we want to back it up with a decent home performance,” said Appleton. “Hopefully it’s good enough to get us some points.
“Whether that’s one or three, who knows? But I can’t remember ever going into a game trying to get one point.
Oxford are expected to be without leading scorer Kemar Roofe, who suffered a groin injury at Morecambe on Saturday, while the Cobblers are waiting on the fitness of key midfielder Joel Byrom, who suffered a neck muscle strain in the warm-up at Orient.