IT IS the first question Karl Robinson is asked wherever he goes at the moment and the answer Oxford United come up with this month is absolutely pivotal.

Finding the solution to the side’s long-standing striker issues is the priority in January, but will not be easy.

The three players who started the season fighting for the centre forward position – Jon Obika, Sam Smith and Jamie Mackie – have scored three league goals between them.

Of those, Obika has been out with a knee injury since October and will not play again this season, while Smith is back at Reading after his loan was cut short.

United cannot say the issue has caught them by surprise, but there are few clubs not searching for extra firepower this month.

“We need reinforcement in the striking area, it’s obvious,” Robinson said.

“The first thing fans ask is ‘have we got a striker coming in?’

“We haven’t just yet, but we’re working on three or four options.”

United have been able to act quickly so far in signing attacking midfielder Mark Sykes and loan winger Jordan Graham in the first 24 hours of the transfer window.

But Robinson knows it could take right up until the deadline to strengthen at the sharp end.

While there is a question over who, the U’s boss is clear about what.

“I would like two strikers,” he said.

“We’ve lost Jon to a cruciate injury and we’ve lost Sam Smith, so we’re two short.

“They would be my preferences – an experienced one who knows the league and has scored goals, plus a young one who we know could also have a big impact on the club.”

As it stands, United are looking at a wide variety of potential sources.

But even with £135,000 up for grabs for the winner of United’s Emirates FA Cup clash with Brentford tomorrow, one area Robinson ruled out was spending a big fee on a proven name.

“Who in League One pays £1m, except for someone like Sunderland,” Robinson said.

“The chairman’s putting money in and it’s nice if we can help him in some way.

“It (the prize money) would not have any relevance on what we do.”

He added: “There are so many reasons you’d like to bring players in, but we don’t hold all the cards – we hold the fewest.

“It’s not through a lack of work ethic, we’ve all worked hard to try to find a player to make us better.

“There are ones out on their first loans in League Two that have done really well.

“Others have been out on loan in the Championship and might not have worked.

“There are ones in the Conference where you think ‘yeah’.

“If you want to put a lot of money down there’s the likes of the boy (James) Norwood at Tranmere, for instance.

“We’re not in for him, but there’s about 15 clubs who are and he now wants to see his contract out and be a free in the summer.

“One could be a week away, but you don’t know if you’ll get it done.

“There are others where we might have to wait until the end of the window.

“We just have to be patient.”