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Raynes demands Oxford United response
MICHAEL Raynes is determined that Oxford United keep their season alive by bouncing back to form at Torquay United this afternoon.
Back-to-back wins against the division’s top two saw Chris Wilder’s men looking up the table last week, but the momentum was emphatically halted by a 4-0 home defeat to a strong Rotherham United.
The result left the U’s nine points off the play-off places as the npower League Two season enters the home straight.
Raynes insists the players still believe it can happen, but knows the U’s will need to collect the vast majority of the 30 points available from their final ten games – starting at Plainmoor.
He said: “We need to have a good push.
“We want to be playing for stuff, you don’t want to come to the last four games and everyone’s turning up knowing there’s nothing to play for.
“There’s nothing worse in football, so we want to make sure we’re in with a good chance.”
Despite the alarming midweek scoreline, U’s boss Chris Wilder is largely set to keep faith with the side which took six points from their last three games.
Scott Davies is in line for a first start in midfield, while Andy Whing should have recovered from the dead leg which forced him off in midweek.
There is a decision to made on whether the U’s stick with the three centre backs who started on Tuesday, or revert to a flat back four.
Lewis Montrose (hamstring) is still unavailable, but could return to action next week.
Although United arrive dissatisfied with their position, struggling Torquay would be delighted to be in mid-table obscurity.
The Gulls have the worst form in England’s top five divisions and a goalless draw at Accrington last weekend halted a run of seven straight defeats.
It has seen them plummet into a relegation scrap, and if results go against them today they could sink to the foot of the table.
But Wilder is wary and is preparing for a stern test.
He said: “You could say the players aren’t in form, but they will still have the same fight and desire to preserve their Football League status. “They have ten games to do it and if you’re in that position, it’s not a nice place to be. “They will be fighting as hard, if not harder than any of the teams we’ve played recently.”
Newly-appointed manager Alan Knill, a long-term friend of Wilder’s, is expected to hand a debut to Joss Labadie, who signed on loan from Notts County this week.
Torquay are also boosted by the return of defender Aaron Downes, but midfielder Craig Easton remains sidelined with a calf injury.
Torquay Utd: from, Poke, Oastler, Saah, Downes, Nicholson, Mansell, Lathrope, Bodin, Jarvis, Howe, Benyon, Labadie, Leadbitter, Cruise, Morris, Stevens, Craig, Thompson, Rice.
Oxford Utd: from McCormick, Batt, Raynes, Wright, Davis, Potter, Whing, Davies, Rigg, Smalley, Constable, Craddock, Parker, Heslop, Capaldi, Worley, O’Brien, Duberry, Crocombe.