OXFORD United’s biggest concern heading into tomorrow’s derby clash is arguably their defensive record.

It is now 16 games since they kept a clean sheet, a run which stretches back to February.

Not since the end of Gary Waddock’s reign and the start of Michael Appleton’s time in charge have the U’s conceded in so many successive matches.

It is a stark change for a side who kept 15 clean sheets in League One last term, the joint best in the division.

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While the loss of Rob Dickie has been a factor, Karl Robinson believes things will improve once they can get a settled line-up in front of goalkeeper Simon Eastwood.

Elliott Moore is the only ever-present at the back in the six league games so far, while Sam Long has played in three different positions as Sean Clare, Rob Atkinson and Josh Ruffels have all had injuries.

The U’s boss said: “People speak about clean sheets, conceding goals, Easty.

“You think ‘how can a goalkeeper know what he’s doing if everything keeps changing in front of him?’

“Last year, for the first half of the season as soon as Elliott came into the team you knew every week the back four was Cadds (Chris Cadden), Dickie, Moore, Ruffels, with Eastwood in goal and (Alex) Gorrin in front of them.

“Cadds went in January, but then Longy replaced him.

“It was so strong and consistent.

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“Clean sheets were bred out of organisation and knowing each other. We kept clean sheets because we had continuity.”

The packed schedule has also been a hindrance, according to Robinson.

He said: “During all these games, you don’t get much time to coach.

“It’s important we give them a chance to breathe.

“I want to take the pressure off them because they’re working really hard and hopefully we can find that continuity really soon.”

Ruffels is the most experienced figure in the back four, with the

26-year-old set to make his 275th appearance for the club tomorrow.

The left back agrees with Robinson that getting a settled line-up would be a big step forward.

He said: “It’s been frustrating me and the rest of the defence.

“Trying to get a consistent back four has been really difficult.

“I know it’s bad Rob got injured (on Tuesday), but hopefully we can get some momentum and we know Longy’s great at centre half.

“Saturday would be the perfect time to get a clean sheet.”