Ian Lenagan is upbeat about Oxford United’s financial situation despite forecasting the club will lose £400,000 in the latest accounts.

Although at first glance it appears alarming, it marks a big step forward from the £1m debt suffered in the previous figures.

The chairman is optimistic the trend will continue to the point where United return to profit sooner rather than later.

He said: “My target is to get it down to about £400,000 for the year we are in at the moment, compared with the £1m we lost last year. We are on target to do that.

“The target next year, particularly if we get up into League One, is to get it down to £100,000-150,000 or maybe even a profit to get back to where we were.”

The U’s chief’s confidence is boosted by a similar pattern at his other club, top rugby league outfit Wigan Warriors.

He said: “We are comfortable with it, we can afford it, but it dispirits us to have to keep propping the club up financially.

“It was exactly the same at Wigan. When I took over it was a £1m loss. It took us three years to get it down and we have been in profit for three years now.”

United’s coffers have been boosted in the last fortnight by an FA Cup run which has netted £150,000 in prize- money and television revenue.

The club also believe there is potential to bring in much more investment from sponsorship than is the case at the moment.

Last month, they hosted representatives from businesses across the county interested in partnerships, which it is hoped will yield a significant benefit for next season.

The marketing department has been revamped in the last few months and one project is bearing fruit.

Yesterday, United announced 8,000 tickets had been sold for ‘The Big Match’ at home to Plymouth Argyle on Boxing Day.

While short of a sell-out, with more than a week to go it is already the biggest gate of the season.

Attendances will play a big part in the long-term financial stability of United.

With average league gates of 5,758, they are about 200 lower than last term, despite being top of Sky Bet League Two for much of the season.

Lenagan is hopeful more results and performances like the 2-1 win against Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday will make a difference, but says it is still above what was budgeted.

He added: “We are not disappointed with the attendances. We want more, of course we do, but attendances are dependent on how much people can afford and whether they feel a bond with the club.

“Every time we win a game that bond gets better and gradually if we continue to win, the attendances will come back.”