AS LONG as there is still a chance, do not rule anything out on the final day of the season – just ask Oxford United’s first-team coach Andy Melville.
The 43-year-old was once involved in a climax to the season which makes the challenge facing the U’s tomorrow look simple.
As a teenager the defender went into the last game of the 1987/88 season as part of a Swansea City side outside the Division Four play-off places.
They were one of six clubs locked in a battle to claim the final spot and, like United this season, knew anything other than a victory would end their hopes.
What followed was something straight out of the plot from a film.
Melville said: “We needed to win, which we did with a last minute goal and the other sides either didn’t win or drew, so we got into the last play-off place and went on to win the final.”
The experienced helped four years later.
Melville was part of an Oxford squad which travelled to Tranmere Rovers on the last day.
Relegation from Division Two was imminent, unless the U’s got a better result than rivals Plymouth Argyle, who were taking on Blackburn Rovers.
Melville said: “We had enough with Joey (Beau-champ) attacking-wise that if we were nice and solid at the back we’d be OK and that’s what we did.
“People talk about pressure and I think the players at the time thrived on it more than anything.
“Obviously there was a lot on the game for the football club, but we had the mentality of looking forward to achieving something.”
Goals from Beauchamp and John Durnin claimed a 2-1 win, which was enough to keep the U’s up as Plymouth lost 3-1.
Melville believes the current squad need to adopt a similar approach at Vale Park.
He said: “I know everyone talks about pressure and it’s a massive word but at the end of the day it’s a football match.
“You’ve got to look at it as an opportunity, people should thrive on it and try to enjoy the moment.”
United have a mixed record when it comes to final day deciders.
The Tranmere game came six years after the club saved their top- flight status with a memorable 3-0 home win against Arsenal.
But the last two times the season has rested on multiple results in the final fixtures it has ended in disappointment for the U’s.
In 2003 they won 2-0 against York City, but were pipped to the Division Three play-offs by Lincoln.
The most recent case was three years ago, when a home defeat to Northwich Victoria was costly, although results elsewhere also went against them in the race for the Conference play-offs.
But, as Melville says: “You just never, ever know in football.”