SIMON Eastwood has called on Oxford United’s defence to maintain their consistency at Walsall this afternoon.

The U’s travel to the Bescot Stadium aiming to reach the third round of the Emirates FA Cup and stretch their unbeaten run to 16 games in the process.

United have grabbed the headlines with a series of high-scoring victories in recent months, but they have also impressed at the other end.

Last weekend’s 4-0 win at Southend United was the U’s fourth clean sheet in eight games, which is a record that delights Eastwood.

He said: “It helps me and it gives the whole team a confidence boost.

“When you beat teams by a heavy score you just want the game to end and get the clean sheet.

“They’re great for the club and for me personally.

“Since I’ve been here it’s the best (unbeaten) run we’ve been on.

He added: “It’s a positive that we’re keeping clean sheets and that’s a credit to the back four.”

United have conceded just eight goals in their 15-match unbeaten run, providing a platform for their climb into the Sky Bet League One play-off places and progression in all three cup competitions.

It is a huge contrast to earlier this season, when the U’s shipped 14 goals in five games up to the 2-0 loss at Fleetwood Town on September 7 – their most recent defeat.

Josh Ruffels has been integral to United’s improved defensive displays and the left back knows the importance of having a solid base.

He said: “It’s huge, because if we don’t score we’re guaranteed a point if we keep a clean sheet.

“We’ve been focusing on that a lot, because we were struggling at a point last season where we were conceding too many goals.”

Shandon Baptiste misses today’s clash with a groin injury, but Jamie Mackie is back after he was suspended for the Southend game.

Walsall midfielder Danny Guthrie could be included after returning from injury in last Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Stevenage.


Walsall: from Roberts, Facey, Scarr, Clarke, Cockerill-Mollett, Holden, Bates, Kinsella, McDonald, Lavery, Gordon, Norman, Sadler, Adebayo, Rose, Guthrie, Hardy, Gaffney

Oxford Utd: from Eastwood, Cadden, Dickie, Mousinho, Ruffels, Gorrin, Henry, Forde, Sykes, Taylor, Fosu, Stevens, Long, Jones, Moore, Hall, Agyei, Mackie.