SKIPPER Phil Gilchrist says Oxford United need to sit down and work out what has caused their sudden slump - so they can regroup and save their season by making sure they reach the play-offs.

Although still in second place in the Nationwide Conference, successive home defeats by Forest Green Rovers and Kidderminster Harriers have been a body blow to the team.

They have destroyed their hopes of the title and automatic promotion, and sown seeds of doubt as to whether they will now get enough wins the remaining nine games to finish in the top five, and have a chance of promotion through the play-offs.

"It'll be a battle now to make sure we get into the play-offs," Gilchrist said. "But we knew that before the season started.

"We knew it would be a battle to get automatic promotion or to get into the play-offs."

He added: "When we played Stevenage, there seemed to be a buzz about the place. Results take away that buzz and confidence.

"Why it's gone, I just don't know.

"We had that run of four wins and it looked like we were back on track, and the last two games we've gone back again.

"But we've got to stay together and work hard.

"When we went on the four-game run, we thought 'right, we're coming into some form towards the end of the season'."

A concern for the U's is that most of the teams below them have games in hand, and sides like York, who they visit on the final day of the season, are in excellent form.

They won 5-0 at Cambridge on Tuesday and are now just a point behind Oxford.

Said Gilchrist: "Obviously, we've stuttered in the last two home games again.

"We've got to work out why and if we do have to go through the play-offs, we've got to make sure we're right."

A desperately disappointed Gilchrist appeared to be having to bite his lip, so that he didn't say anything which would upset some of his teammates.

But his frequent reference to 'working hard' suggested that he felt some hadn't grafted enough against Kidderminster on Tuesday night.

"I can't say what I really want to say," he admitted.

"It's so disappointing, especially coming after Saturday's defeat against Forest Green. We didn't really perform.

"And we got hit by a sucker punch at the end. Although we didn't play that well, we were still in the game and had a couple of chances we should have scored from.

"But we didn't, we didn't work them hard enough."

And creating only three or four chances per game - particularly at home - isn't enough, the skipper believes.

"We created some chances, but not created sustained pressure on the opposition, which is what we want to do," he said.

"We're good enough to do it, it's disappointing that we haven't," he said.

"Yes, it was a wonder goal, but he still had a free shot from 30 yards. Whatever the reason, he shouldn't have that.

"There have been a few games this season where we've been hit by sucker punches, but we're going to have to take them on the chin. We can't afford to keep dropping these points."