AFTER Oxford United’s hopes of automatic promotion were realistically ended by defeat last weekend, Chris Wilder has refocused on trying to stay top in a mini-league of play-off contenders during the run-in.
Just six games remain for most sides in npower League Two and the promotion picture could become much clearer after the back-to-back games this Easter weekend, with United visiting Northampton Town tonight ahead of a home game against Torquay United on Monday.
A strong run in March gave the U’s belief of sneaking into the top three come the final day of the season on May 5, but a 2-1 defeat to Morecambe last weekend left them well adrift.
Wilder said: “We’re disappointed because we really did harbour ambitions of reeling the top three in and if we’d got a result on Saturday that could’ve been achieved.
“But I’m a realistic manager and with the games that are left, to finish in the top three you’re probably going to need at 83 or 84 points – if we win all of our games we’ll get 83, so it’s going to be a real tough ask now.”
The play-offs have always been the most likely route to promotion for the U’s, who have spent the majority of the season inside the top seven.
Despite the defeat last weekend they remain in sixth and Wilder is now concentrating on getting more points than the four sides immediately below – Cheltenham, Crewe, Gillingham and Aldershot over the final month to claim a play-off slot.
The U’s boss admits the remaining games are all difficult to call.
He said: “Southend have done enough to get into the play-offs, so really it’s two from four, with possibly Aldershot on an unbelievable run still in the mix, and out of those teams, we’re in the best position.
“Looking all the way down the fixtures they’re all difficult and nobody can predict what’s going to happen.
“We’re in still in good nick, regardless of what happened on Saturday.”
The United squad were given Monday off to gain extra rest following a hectic schedule in March.
Wilder has been pleased with the intensity of training since Tuesday, as the players seek to get the Morecambe result out of their system.
He said: “We have good players, with more coming back, so we’re strong.
“If we were down to the bare bones and didn’t have very good players with poor attitudes, then maybe we would be panicking a bit.
“But the comforting thing for me is seeing the reaction in training this week, which re-emphasises what a good group of players I’ve got, and we’ll be looking to kick on over this weekend to move further clear of the teams below us.”