PRIDE, rather than permutations, is the priority for Gary Waddock tomorrow afternoon as Oxford United’s head coach seeks to halt a rotten run.
It is only a week since they headed into the Easter games in control of their fate.
But 1-0 defeats to York City and Scunthorpe United see the U’s with the near-impossible task of bridging a five-point gap to the play-offs with only two games remaining.
It leaves them needing favours from elsewhere, but whether they materialise or not, Waddock’s focus is on United’s clash with Accrington Stanley.
He said: “Our first port of call is to win a football match, that’s what we need to do.
“I said to the players at half-time at Scunthorpe about pride and about being winners.
“That’s what we need to get.”
There has been little sign of a honeymoon period since Waddock took over last month.
United have lost five of their six games since, with the stylish 2-0 win at Plymouth Argyle the exception rather than the rule.
But the side’s slump had started well before his arrival.
Since their long unbeaten run on the road ended with a 3-2 defeat at Newport County in February, just eight points have been collected from 13 games.
The sequence is so bad that if the Sky Bet League Two table was reset that night, the U’s would now sit three points adrift at the bottom.
It looks set to cost them a place in the play-offs, but while Waddock can point to some unfortunate setbacks – notably a freakish own goal at Dagenham and a harsh penalty conceded against York – it will not be offered as an excuse.
He said: “I wasn’t here in the early part of the season, but from the outside it was a very good start.
“Then we’ve had an horrendous run of results, if I’m honest.
“We’ve had some bad luck during that, but at the end of the season you end up where you should finish.
“They say during the course of the season it works itself out in terms of luck and things like that.
“So we’ll finish where we deserve to finish.”
Waddock was very clear after the defeat at Scunthorpe on Easter Monday that he would not tolerate average performances.
With a host of contract decisions to make next month, the game against Accrington tomorrow and Northampton next week will be significant. The U’s boss insists there is still time for players to play themselves into – or out of – his plans for next season.
He said: “Some may think they have a deal, some may think they haven’t, but it’s up to them to push it over the line.”