Oxford United must keep the foot on the gas in season-defining week for the U's
(Photo by Catherine Mill/ Getty Images)

Oxford United had seen a dip in form at the tail end of February after a lightning-quick start to the calendar year showed signs of slowing down.

Failing to score in five of their six fixtures in the second half of February, doubt started to cast a shadow over their late promotion push.

However, a 3-0 win over Doncaster Rovers last time out refocussed the U's in their objective to finish inside the top six.

A delighted Karl Robinson felt his team's performance vindicated his decision to play with the 'handbrake off.'

The manager had ushered a more aggressive approach before the game with his frustration of his team's lack of threat in the final third being portrayed.  

  • Visit from Blackpool arrives first

A visit from Blackpool on Saturday poses a new challenge for Robinson, one that would require United to keep their momentum at full tilt. 

The Seasiders will arrive from the Fylde coast, boasting a defensive record that is second only to Sunderland. They have kept 14 clean sheets in 32 League One games, conceding 10 less than the U's.

Having this in mind, along with United's short trip to Sixfield's and their TV date at home to Michael Appleton's Lincoln City, Robinson must not take his foot off the gas now.

Embed from Getty Images

Talking to Oxford Mail ahead of the first game, Robinson urged a guard against complacency against Blackpool, implying the notion that their defensive record shouldn't be placed at any more importance than the rest of their qualities. 

“In midfield, the pairings in there are very difficult to play against, and if CJ Hamilton is fit, he causes you a different problem that nobody in the league can cause you," he said. 

Sullay Kaikai is someone I know very well, and Jerry Yates is a player we looked at in the window – we know how hard he works. We are going to have our work cut out again at the weekend.”

  • Rotation has refuelled Oxford's tank

Robinson has made an average of four changes to his starting line-up in the last four fixtures, despite being eclipsed by seven players being unavailable at his disposal. 

Players are starting to return for the U's, though, as a welcome return to Anthony Forde and Sam Winnall awaits Saturday.

James Henry and Sam Long will miss the clash on Saturday but are expected to return in time for their highly-anticipated visit from Lincoln City on Friday.

A player that has suffered from the 2020/21 season congestion is United's very own, Josh Ruffels. The hometown hero has featured 36 times this campaign, being in the top five appearance makers for League One, but has admitted he's had to adapt to the strenuous schedule.

He said: “I’m pretty tired to be fair, but there’s a routine you’ve got to get into.

“You’ve got to take training out of it a little bit, rest your body and take the days off as much as you can. I’ve been in it for a few seasons and I enjoy it. You just recover and go again.

“There’s nothing I’d rather be doing and it’s not like we can do anything else at the moment anyway."

The defender has surpassed the 300-game mark during his United career, etching his name into Grenoble Road folklore. He explained that the mental toughness of the team has pushed the U's closer to promotion contention.

“You can be tired, but if you’re mentally strong, you get through it fine."

  • A week that could shape the season

The U's head coach must take his well-rested side into this week with the mission to secure all nine points. If all goes well, United could find themselves in the playoffs for the first time this season.

Oxford United are two points below 6th placed Charlton with two games in hand, suggesting this week could hold the key to opening the door to the U's fortunes.

Meanwhile, Sunderland and lincoln go head to head over the weekend, while Ipswich Town makes the gruelling trip to Fratton Park, further flinging the door open for Oxford Utd to capitalise.

Should Karl Robinson keep his foot on the gas this week, League One could see a new addition to the top six come Easter weekend. 

VAVEL Logo