MICHAEL Duberry wants to put pressure on Oxford United’s centre backs as he eyes a return to the starting line-up.
The veteran returned to action with a cameo appearance on Tuesday after more than six months out with a neck injury.
After getting a taste of competitive football in the 2-0 win against Acc-rington Stanley, the former Chelsea and Leeds defender wants more.
Duberry will almost certainly be on the bench again for today’s visit of Fleetwood Town in npower League Two and he admits several more appearances are needed before the match sharpness returns completely.
But the 37-year-old has warned starting pair Jake Wright and Michael Raynes he does not want to be a substitute for long.
“The real hard work starts now and it’s about getting myself sharp and fit to put pressure on the those in front of me that are in my spot,” he said.
“I say it respectfully to the two in the team, I want their place. “If I was playing they would want my place, that’s the hunger and desire I’ve always had, I’ve never wanted to be a sub.”
Today marks the start of four games in 11 days over the festive period.
Sitting 18th in the table, United can ill-afford a patchy run at an important time of the season.
But it does not look straightforward, with three of their opponents, including Fleetwood, in the top eight.
Adam Chapman (ankle) is United’s only new injury concern, with Lee Cox likely to deputise.
It was suggested the midfielder’s injury – which will keep him out for six weeks – had come from a divot and the quality of the pitch questioned.
And U’s boss Chris Wilder is looking at adopting a more direct style to overcome the problems.
He said: “I’d love to get the ball down and play through teams, but sometimes we might have to alter a few bits and pieces to get the right result. “I didn’t hear many critical voices when we went 2-0 up (against Accrington). “Supporters want to see us play football – and they have seen us play football – but they would rather see us win.”
Promoted Fleetwood sit eighth, but are on a run of five games without a win.
Barry Ferguson could return from a groin injury, but influential striker Jon Parkin is out with a hamstring injury.
TODAY’S SQUADS Oxford Utd: from Clarke, Batt, Raynes, Wright, Davis, Potter, Cox, Leven, Rigg, Constable, Craddock, Chapman, Forster-Caskey, Worley, Duberry, O’Brien, Marsh, Brown, Parker.
Fleetwood T: from Davies, Beeley, Howell, Brown, Goodall, Atkinson, Milligan, Nicholson, Marrow, Gillespie, Ball, Maxwell, Ferguson, McNulty, Obeng, McGuire, Johnson, Titchiner, Barkhuizen.