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Oxford are without Nathan Holland and Sam Winnall with calf injuries while Cameron Brannagan missed the recent win over Morecambe with illness. Jack Stevens has also been absent for the last three games with glandular fever and remains absent against the Gas.
James Belshaw, Josh Grant, Mark Hughes, Trevor Clarke and Harvey Saunders are all doubts for the game while Anssi Jaakkola, Leon Clarke and Alex Rodman are all injured.
Former Swindon and Portsmouth striker Brett Pitman is the visitors’ top scorer with four goals, while Sam Nicholson and Harvey Saunders have both added three each.
The U’s did a league double over Rovers last season with both games ending 2-0, with former Gas striker Matty Taylor netting twice in the home game. However, Rovers have a good record at Grenoble Road and have won on their previous six visits before last seasons loss.
A constant in the Stoke team during that era, 10 years later Taylor met him for the first time now as teammate, colleague and, increasingly, mentor.
Taylor admits Whelan has helped pass on sacred knowledge about all the tricks of the trade on the pitch, foremost being using his body position to draw the most out of his sizeable frame against commanding League Two strikers.
“I was a season ticket holder at Stoke watched him growing up, to now be playing be playing with him is a massive experience for him,” Taylor said.
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“He’s given me the small details, the finer points that nobody really notices to give you a bit of an edge in the game. For example, going up for headers; jumping earlier, that sort of thing. You can call on his experiences because he’s had a brilliant career.
“On the pitch, I’ve quickly realised I need to use my body more. Because it’s alright being tall but if you don’t use your body, you may as well be 5ft3ins.
“In Under-23s football, sometimes you can just jump and head the ball without really thinking about the striker. But at this level strikers are constantly trying to nudge you, so it’s just getting that into your game.