ANTHONY Forde hopes football can prove a positive distraction after his recent family bereavement.

The versatile Oxford United midfielder lost his grandad last month and flew home to Ireland at short notice for the funeral.

It meant Forde, 27, missed the U’s 3-0 Sky Bet League One win over Doncaster Rovers on March 16, but he returned in time to face Blackpool four days later.

The former Wolves trainee had to test negative for Covid before re-joining the group and at a time when the virus is complicating even simple plans, he was grateful for United’s understanding.

Forde said: “It was my grandad who passed away, I was very close to him.

“He followed me all through my career and all my sport from when I was a kid.”

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He added: “It was tough with what’s going on.

“I’m just happy I got back and got to go to the funeral.

“It was all short and sharp, but the main thing was getting back.

“I was luckily able to be involved for the game on the Saturday, which was great.

“It was good for the club to sort everything out for me.

“I got back into it and now it’s head down to focus on the rest of the season.”

Football seems trivial in comparison, but the former Irish Under 21 international has been invaluable since joining United in summer 2019.

He was signed as a winger but has fulfilled a variety of positions, including in the unfamiliar left back role when he replaced the injured Josh Ruffels 27 minutes into last Friday’s clash with Lincoln City.

Even Forde would not have expected to make an impact as quickly as he did, firing home the equaliser to set United on their way to a 2-1 win.

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It means the U’s were eighth before last night’s game between Gillingham and Wigan Athletic, ahead of their trip to Sunderland tomorrow.

Forde has become used to creating goals rather than scoring them, his set-piece expertise helping him to four assists this season.

But it felt good to score his first goal since November 2019 – and only his third for United.

Forde said: “It had been a while, I was just hoping the ball was going to drop to me.

“I was in the box and I caught it well.

“I was buzzing with it and happy that we more importantly got back in the game.

“My assists have probably been more important compared to my goal contribution, but I was delighted to get a goal.

“It was a good time to get it before half-time and it was a massive win for us.”