Jake Wright believes Oxford United’s squad has grown closer together after successfully handling a tough spell of games with an awful injury list.
The U’s skipper is one of three key players due for a return to the squad against Dagenham & Redbridge tomorrow after recovering from strains.
Sean Rigg and Michael Raynes will also increase the options available to manager Chris Wilder, who at times has had been unable to select half his senior players.
Despite the problems, the U’s have lost just once in 12 games to remain top of Sky Bet League Two and have progressed to the FA Cup third round.
Although Wright thinks the squad would have benefited from signings to cover the injuries, the centre back has noticed the bonds in the camp growing deeper.
“I have been at the club for four years and it’s the best team spirit I’ve had here,” he said.
“It’s such a close-knit group, there are no cliques where maybe there were a few last year.
“I think it does help that we have a small group.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think we did need a few more players in, but we seem to have got through a sticky patch.
“It definitely was a really important part of the season getting through it with the injuries.
“I think it’s lucky they came when there weren’t many league games.
“I think we were lucky to win the Gateshead game and if we had a few more players it would have made it easier to get a result.
“But the young boys came through for us and hopefully it will make us stronger.”
Wright is thrilled to be in line for a return following a hamstring injury.
The 27-year-old has had a good fitness record since joining the U’s in 2009, but it was his second lay-off so far this season.
He said: “I’ve missed eight league games, which is the most I’ve missed for Oxford.
“It’s been frustrating and difficult, but you can’t do anything about it.
“You feel bad because you want to be out there helping people, especially when we have so many young boys out there.
“You just have to get stronger and come back as quickly as you can.
“Hopefully I have had my injuries now, I just want to be fit for the rest of the season.”