MICHAEL Appleton knows it is the issue that has dogged Oxford United all season.

And with the business end of the campaign upon us, the U’s head coach is under no illusions that the weekly discussion about the lack of goals is not one that he can continue to have.

In the last ten games, United have scored just six times – and half of those came in the 3-0 home win over Mansfield in February.

It is well highlighted that Patrick Hoban is yet to open his account in 12 starts and one substitute appearance, while top scorer Danny Hylton has netted only twice in 2015.

Appleton is fully aware of the pressure on his front men to deliver, and acknowledges that their displays in training – as well as on matchdays – have to be carefully monitored.

“Pretty much all season we have done everything apart from put the ball into the net and that’s what it’s all coming down to,” United’s boss said.

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“There’s a very fine line between success and failure and it’s all very well looking back and saying that we should have won this game and not lost that one, but if you don’t score goals then you’re not going to.”

But as a coach, what can Appleton do to try and alter the situation?

“You have to keep players as confident as you can,” he commented.

“They must be in the right frame of mind with the right focus, and that’s where you have to look closely at them.

“As long as they see the belief in me that they are doing the right things, hopefully they will show composure – whether that’s to shoot, pass or whatever. It’s all about making the right decisions at the right time.”

He added: “I have to be aware if they are playing a different way in training or trying to do different things because of the situation they are in.

“It’s natural they might try that, but you have to make sure their frame of mind is right.

“With our front players, yes they need to score, but they have to be bringing other things to the table too.

“If someone is getting hold of the ball, being strong, bringing midfield players into the game, then you’ve got to take those things into account.

“In terms of quality and ability, they have shown they have got that at times this season and even if you are confident, there is a mental element to it all and you have to be spot-on in that respect all the time.”

And what United would give for a fast opening and early goal on Saturday.

“It would be very nice indeed,” Appleton said.

“Ironically in the last home game against Hartlepool we started very well and created numerous chances in the opening ten minutes. But we didn’t take them.

“I said to the players last week that when you are on top of games, you have to score.

“Yes we need to start quickly, yes we need to start positively, but if we do that, we have got to make the most of it.

“If we can do that, we will be fine.”