OXFORD United have shown impressive reserves of energy and character during a tough spell, but manager Chris Wilder is calling for one final display before they can draw breath.
Tomorrow’s clash with Dagenham & Redbridge will be their sixth fixture in three weeks.
More crucially, it comes after a hat-trick of long away trips, where a patched-up side have drawn in the league with rivals Fleetwood and won in the FA Cup at Gateshead and Wrexham.
With the busy festive period looming, next week will be the squad’s only chance to regroup in between key batches of games.
Wilder has paid tribute to his players several times as they have continued to get results against the odds.
They will get a chance to rest up ahead of the visit to York City next weekend, but beforehand the U’s boss wants one more show of strength from the league leaders.
He said: “It would cap a great ten days for us if we managed to get a win and that would give us a week’s rest before York, which we’ll possibly desperately need for a few of them to recharge their batteries.
“In my eyes a real big effort from everybody is needed – from the staff, the players and the supporters.”
Wilder is conscious there is a danger after such a big effort from a small pool of players that a dip in performance could easily be just around the corner.
Training patterns have been restructured to accommodate the hectic programme in a bid to avoid such a problem tomorrow.
“We are hopeful there’s not a flat performance around the corner. That’s what we have got to guard against and make sure as staff we really drive the players on,” Wilder said.
“The players themselves have to do the same, because they have done a lot of miles and had some tough games in there.
“Especially with the senior players there hasn’t been much rotation as well.
“The likes of Danny Rose, the two full backs, Kitson and Beano haven’t missed a lot of football.
“To be fair, those players have shown a fantastic appetite for the games and we have eased back on training because we can’t afford any more injuries.”
Dagenham were a League One side only three seasons ago and they would get to within a point of the leaders if they can repeat their victory at the Kassam Stadium last season.
Despite this they remain one of the Football League’s more unfashionable clubs and the east Londoners’ continued success on meagre resources may be partly down to teams underestimating them.
It should not be the case tomorrow.
Wilder said: “They have had some excellent results and are certainly a team not to be taken lightly.
“People will automatically think ‘Dagenham & Redbridge, who are they?’ but it just doesn’t happen like that in this league.
“We certainly won’t have that mindset. We will have to work hard and play well to win.