Plymouth Argyle make tough trip to Oxford in the FA Youth Cup
ACADEMY manager Kevin Hodges knows Plymouth Argyle under-18s will have to be at their best when they play away to Oxford United in the FA Youth Cup second round tonight.
Oxford have played 12 games in all competitions this season, winning 10 of them and scoring 41 goals along the way.
However, one of their two defeats came against Argyle in a Football League Youth Alliance South West Conference clash.
The Pilgrims beat them 3-0 at Haye Road, Elburton, in August.
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Oxford currently top the South West Conference with 15 points from seven games, with second-placed Argyle two points behind but having played one match less.
The winners of tonight's FA Youth Cup tie, which will be played at Didcot Town FC (7.30pm), will be at home to Barnsley in the third round.
The game has been switched to Didcot Town because the pitch at Thame United is waterlogged.
Hodges said: "It's two in-form teams. Since Oxford played us in the early part of the season they have been on fire in front of goal.
"As a team, we will have to be really strong defensively and, hopefully, we can go up there and perform as we did in our last FA Youth Cup game against Exeter (when Argyle won 3-0 at Home Park).
"The challenge for the young players is they have got to try to repeat what we did against Exeter in an away game.
"It's part of their learning process – to be able to go away from home and compete, and try to perform to a level that's needed.
"I'm looking forward to it, and the players seem to be looking forward to it."
Hodges admitted Argyle have had a 'few blips' along the way this season, such as missing out on qualification for the last eight of the Football League Youth Alliance Cup.
But he was pleased to see the Pilgrims rally from a 1-0 half-time deficit to beat Exeter 2-1 in a South West Conference clash at Haye Road on Saturday.
Hodges said: "We were second-best in certain areas of the field in the first half on Saturday.
"My challenge to the players was, 'Can you turn this around'? and they came out of the game with a lot of credit."
Oxford reached round two of the FA Youth Cup with a 4-2 home win against Yeovil Town.
Hodges said: "Our lads have proven they can perform on the big stage by beating Exeter at Home Park.
"Can they repeat it? Football is all about consistency and I have to say, over the course of this season, the players have performed quite well.
"We have had a few little blips and they have overcome those and shown a really positive reaction."
He added: "We have beaten Oxford this season, but this is a cup game and I think it's a case of who performs on the night."
Argyle's squad will include first-year professional Matt Lecointe, 17, who started the season in the first team squad until he was sidelined by an injury.
He started his comeback by playing in the FA Youth Cup tie against Exeter and had another run-out for 63 minutes in the victory over the same opposition on Saturday.
Argyle (from): Christian Walton, Colin Watson, Ben Purrington, Andrew Elcock, James Bradley, Nathan Summers, Matt Lecointe, River Allen, Tyler Harvey, Joshua Hutchinson, Solomon Wheatley, Andrew Hannah, Aaron Bentley, Callum Hall, Tom Moxham, Kieron Asumadu-Sakyi, Ryan Lane.