OXFORD United begin the trip to the north east today ahead of their highly-anticipated Emirates FA Cup tie at Newcastle United.

The decision to set off 24 hours earlier than normal had as much to do with their remaining campaign in Sky Bet League One as it is about plotting a cup upset.

Head coach Karl Robinson said: “We just felt it was a chance to break the mould. We’re going to have a lot of meetings in how we’re going to look at the last 18 games.

“We’ll break that into groups with an expected target to be successful.

“There will be one or two tests with them and collective meetings.

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“It’s almost a case of taking stock.

“We’re a little bit over halfway through the season, but in the Christmas period you can’t take stock at that point.”

United are fifth in League One, but are likely to be outside of the play-off positions by the time Blackpool visit next weekend, with most promotion rivals playing twice in the meantime.

And after collecting two points from a possible 12 in 2020, Robinson is keen to make the most of a break from league action to refocus.

He said: “It’s my job to drive better standards and create a higher level of understanding of what we have to do to achieve something.

“I think the players respect what we’re trying to achieve in the short term and long term, whatever the outcome of the season may be we still keep moving forward into next year in a better place.

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“It keeps us together a bit more and I do want to go ‘right, we’re all on zero, what do we have to do to be successful?’”

The break also allows some building work to make improvements in the building at the training ground, while there will also be time set aside for bonding.

Robinson said: "We’ll all go out where we’re staying and spend a bit of social time together and build a bit of a team spirit.

"The new players who have only just come in it gives them a better chance of integrating into the team as well.

"There are so many different factors and we felt it was a necessity."