CHRIS Wilder has acknowledged Oxford United have little margin for error after a patchy first half of the season.
The npower League Two campaign reaches its halfway stage next weekend and since winning their opening three games, United have been off the pace of the leading pack.
While they are on a run of five games unbeaten in all competitions – the club’s longest sequence since March – only one of those has been won after 90 minutes.
They head to Morecambe tomorrow 18th in the table and looking for a victory which would provide a boost heading into the busy Christmas period.
Last season a 0-0 draw at the Globe Arena started a run where the side lost just twice in 15 games.
Wilder is well aware of the need to put together a similar run to climb the table, but knows the longer the indifferent form goes on, the harder it will become.
He said: “Without a shadow of a doubt. Statistics will show you that, there’s not a lot of margin for error.
“I do understand that with the results we’ve had we have to go on a run.
“I think Crewe had a point or two more than us at this stage of the season a year ago and they’re playing League One football now, so we know it’s possible.
“There’s still a lot to play for. We just have to keep our heads down and keep trying to pick up results.”
The return of Michael Duberry, the squad’s most experienced player, to action in a practice game yesterday will be a timely boost.
It means the injury list is down to three players – Deane Smalley, Andy Whing and Jon-Paul Pittman – as good as it has been all season.
The inability to name his strongest side this season has been a major issue for Wilder.
He said: “I put the squad together and I know how good they are, but I’ve got to get them all out on the pitch.
“There’s nobody at the moment more frustrated than me.”
League Two was in the spotlight this week as Bradford City knocked Arsenal out of the Capital One Cup in a penalty shoot-out to book a place in the semi-final.
Wilder sent his congratulations to Bradford boss Phil Parkinson after the game and was pleased to see the underdog progress.
He said: “I’ve known Phil a long time and I’ve played at Bradford, so I was delighted for them.
“I thought they showed a real desire and willingness to go that extra yard for each other.”
And the United manager believes it demonstrates how far the lower leagues have come since the start of his playing career.
He said: “Maybe the old third and fourth divisions 20 years ago people didn’t have a lot of respect for them.
“You’d get the odd cup upset on a dodgy pitch but you look at it now and the standard has gone through the roof.
“There are so many good players plying their trade in the lower leagues and all credit to Bradford.”