CHRIS Wilder thinks Oxford United’s win at Bradford City with a changed formation proves his side are tactically flexible – a key feature if they are to mount a promotion charge.
The U’s deployed a 3-4-3 system at Valley Parade, while at the other end of the pitch, Justin Richards’s physical presence was preferred to top- scorer Tom Craddock.
One of the most assured displays of the season followed and the visitors dominated for long spells, running out 2-1 winners.
Wilder has favoured a 4-3-3 system, but for much of this season they have lined up 4-4-2 to accommodate the strike partnership of James Constable and Craddock.
The ability to use a variety of tactical shapes will be a valuable weapon as United look to continue climbing towards npower League Two’s top seven, but United’s boss feels it is nothing new.
He said: “I think we’ve always been flexible. I never understand this criticism we receive that we’re not.
“We played 4-3-3 to get us up, we played some fantastic football in the first two seasons (back in the Football League) playing it.
“Then we’ve changed and looked at personnel to go with 4-4-2, which has worked well for us.
“Against Bradford, we went with three centre halves.
“It’s not about systems, it’s about the players producing good performances and taking on board what we want to put into them.
“First and foremost, whatever shape we’re in we want to pass the ball and we did that. We opened Bradford up and made chance after chance.”
Another tweak involved wingers Sean Rigg and Alfie Potter, who at times operated on opposite sides and in narrower roles compared with their usual positions. This had a say in both United’s goals.
Rigg, normally a left-winger, equalised with a shot from a central position, while right-winger Potter earned the match-winning penalty with a surge from the left.
Rigg said: “Me and Alfie have been playing out wide and at Bradford we played inside and on the opposite side.
“You’ve got to adapt quickly, but we managed to do that and it paid off.
“When I’m out wide on the left it gives me an opportunity to cross more, but I do like to come inside and gets shots off.”
Peter Leven, who scored the U’s winner, felt it worked well.
He said: “I think the last time we did that when I played was Southend away (last season) and we battered them as well.
“We were unlucky to lose that day, but at Bradford we passed the ball really well and dominated the whole match.”
* COVERS have been laid on the Kassam Stadium pitch in a bid to help Oxford United’s game this Saturday to go ahead.
Groundstaff took the measure on Tuesday morning to protect the playing surface from freezing temperatures ahead of the clash with Rotherham United.
The condition will be monitored closely, particularly with snow expected.