Johnny Mullins says Oxford United were hurt by defeat on Boxing Day but is now focused on sending out a message by beating fellow high-fliers Scunthorpe Uni-ted tomorrow.

A nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions came to an end on Thursday, when the U’s lost 3-2 to Plymouth Argyle at the Kassam Stadium.

Despite the setback, Chris Wilder’s men stayed second in Sky Bet League Two, as the sides which began in the top four all dropped points.

One of those was Scunthorpe, who threw away a two-goal lead late on to draw 2-2 with Bury.

They remain the division’s form team, though, and go into tomorrow’s game at Oxford in third place.

Mullins is looking for an immediate improvement from the Plymouth game and believes a win against another of the division’s top sides would be the perfect response.

He said: “We just need to dust ourselves down, look at what we can improve on and look at Scunthorpe and set down a marker by beating them.

“We haven’t had a problem with (motivation) all season and we’ll be firing.

“We are hurting and we’ll come out and hopefully show Scunthorpe we are the better side and put on a better performance than we have against Plymouth.”

Defeat to the Pilgrims came as a shock to Mullins, particularly conceding three goals in 45 minutes after letting in only four in the previous 11 games.

He said: “It’s not very nice and it ruins your day. We have to take the hurt. We all love it when we win, but when we lose we don’t want this feeling again soon.”

The Boxing Day game attracted the club’s biggest gate in almost two years, with more than 10,000 coming through the turnstiles.

Despite the result, Mullins hopes many of the extra spectators return tomorrow.

“It would be lovely,” he said.“It was nice playing in front of the crowd, I thought they were really good and we’re disappointed that we didn’t get the win.

“We want to play in front of bigger crowds and hopefully if we keep performing and playing well come the end of the season there will be many more of these to come.”