ADVER sports reporter Jonathan Leighfield has his say on life at the County Ground ahead of the weekend’s derby against Oxford United.

March 10, 2001. No, it wasn’t the date the coronavirus pandemic started - although it certainly feels that way – it was the last time Swindon Town beat Oxford United in a league fixture.

Uptown Girl by Westlife was top of the charts, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hadn’t been released as a movie yet, and Town’s Arsenal loanee Matt Smith was five months old.

A lot has changed since then, not least, Swindon’s record against their arch rivals has turned into something of a nightmare.

However, in a year where it’s felt like anything that could have gone wrong, has, things are beginning to look up and hope is filling the hearts of the optimists among us.

A vaccine for Covid-19 is on the horizon, the second national lockdown is days away from being lifted and fans can return to stadiums in small parts from next week.

From a Swindon Town perspective, the timing of this game could hardly be better as it means Oxford will have no home support this afternoon while the County Ground should have 2,000 people inside come March.

Of course, injuries to key players mean Town could potentially be heading in without a fit recognised striker at their disposal, but the players have shown under John Sheridan that they can remain defensively sound and they have a fight that has rarely been seen before.

A desire to compete will likely come before skill and precision today as two struggling sides bid to claim a vital three points in their quest to shunt up the League One table.

But, a first Swindon victory over Oxford in nearly 20 years would give Town fans hope that better times really are around the corner.