9:20am Saturday 28th December 2013
By David Pritchard
THE first half of the season concludes tomorrow and Chris Wilder’s half-term report to his Oxford United players is simple – more of the same please.
While there has been the odd hiccup along the way, the U’s can look back on the season so far with satisfaction.
Like every club there is a frustration over results here and there not going their way, but a milestone can be reached with victory against Scunthorpe United tomorrow.
It would take them to 41 points for the first half of the season, effectively halfway to automatic promotion.
For the last ten seasons the average tally for third-placed teams in League Two is 82 points – with only two years where the team in fourth has finished above the mark.
Wilder would love to have built up a cushion, but is delighted with the return so far.
“If we replicate what we’ve done already in the second part of the season it would take us to 76 points, which firmly gets us in the play-offs,” he said.
“That woud be good, but ultimately we are after better.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but if we manage to get a win then simple maths says if we replicate the second part of the season that’s 82 points.
“That would represent a fantastic achievement and put us very close to automatic promotion.”
United’s pleasure at being in contention is in contrast to the mood at several clubs who were well backed in pre-season.
Wilder said: “I believe there are only so many teams who can go up from this position.
“There are big clubs that, unless they go on an absolutely outstanding run, will not be in the play-offs.
“You look at Northampton, Bristol Rovers, Portsmouth – they are big clubs in our league that won’t be involved in the shake-up.
“If we keep our nerve and the consistency we’ve shown all season, then we will.”
United’s success this season has been down to steady accumulation and they have not lost successive league games.
It means in the wake of Thursday’s 3-2 defeat to Plymouth, Wilder is not worried about his players delivering tomorrow.
He said: “I think they’ve been pretty consistent all the way through.
“That’s what gives me great encouragement that we’ll keep our heads down and go again against Scunthorpe.”
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