Oxford have an eye on history as they prepare for FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough

16 February 2017 12:54

Oxford are chasing FA Cup history on Saturday at Middlesbrough, with boss Michael Appleton targeting one-off and sustained success.

United are in the last-16 for the first time since 1993-94 and a win at Boro would ensure their best run in the competition since reaching the quarter-final against Preston in 1963-64.

Oxford beat Rafael Benitez's Newcastle 3-0 to advance to the fifth round and have the opportunity to match the run of 53 years ago and move within a game of a Wembley semi-final.

"We'll make the players aware of the stats and the facts," Appleton said.

"I don't want to dress it up too much other than it's an opportunity to create another little bit of history for the football club and themselves.

"As long as they know what to expect from Middlesbrough, they'll take all the plaudits afterwards if they get a result."

Oxford have recent cup pedigree - they beat Swansea in the third round in 2015-16 - and had won five successive games until Tuesday night's loss to Southend.

They are 11th in Sky Bet League One, seven points adrift of the play-off places but with games in-hand due to their cup heroics.

Appleton hopes to help Oxford to the Championship, having earned promotion from League Two last term.

"We've beaten eight sides from a higher division, one of them a Premier League side," Appleton added.

"We give sides above us a really good game. We've got players that can play at that level.

"On a one-off, in a cup competition, they've proved they can do it.

"It's the first season back in League One after 15 years' absence.

"This football club is certainly going in the right direction, but we won't rush it."

Appleton appeared to be in a rush earlier in his management career, enduring chastening experiences at two clubs mired in turmoil. His spells at Blackpool and Blackburn lasted 65 and 67 days, respectively.

He is rebuilding his reputation at the Kassam Stadium.

"What happened at Blackpool and Blackburn. initially, taking the jobs in the first place was my fault," added Appleton, who was appointed Oxford boss in July 2014.

"Once you're in the job, there's a lot of stuff that happens that you can't control.

"I do believe the top five or six managers in the country probably wouldn't have got different results at those clubs at those times.

"I made a couple of wrong choices at the wrong time. This has given me the opportunity to stamp my philosophy on a football club that needed a bit of love at the time.

"It had been a middle of the road League Two side and there's so much potential in the place.

"For me to be able to do that over nearly three years now has been great for me. I've really enjoyed it.

"I hope there's plenty more days like Saturday to come for the football club. I'm sure there will be."

Oxford already have 11 games in 35 days - including the possibility of earning a Wembley trip as they face Luton in the Checkatrade Trophy semi-final - so Appleton will be keen to avoid a replay.

Boro have trouble scoring, but concede few goals. Their only wins in the last 10 games were in the FA Cup, but Appleton does not expect Aitor Karanka to prioritise the Premier League.

"I hope they will. I don't think they will," he added.

"They will see us as an opportunity to get to the quarter-final of the FA Cup."

Oxford have no fresh injury concerns. Joe Skarz is available following illness, while defenders Christian Ribeiro and Sam Long continue their rehabilitation from injury.

Source: PA