ROB Atkinson has returned to Eastleigh on loan from Oxford United until the end of the season.

The defender joined the U's on a three-year contract from the Vanarama National League club earlier this month.

It was always expected that the 21-year-old would be loaned back to the Spitfires until the summer, despite impressing in training and in a behind-closed-doors friendly earlier this week.

U's head coach Karl Robinson said: “He is very much one for the future but he has settled in here really well.

"Defensively we have been very good this season and with Rob Dickie, John Mousinho and Elliott Moore ahead of him he wasn’t going to get much game time right now so a loan works well."

United beat a dozen clubs to sign the promising youngster, who can play at centre back or left back, for an undisclosed fee.

Robinson added: “There was a lot of interest from league clubs but we couldn’t do that with a recall clause, but by joining Eastleigh it opens up that possibility after 28 days.

"That means he can train with us, play games for them, and be back with us if needed. It’s a sensible move all round.”

It is the second loan move out of United today, after winger Rob Hall joined Forest Green Rovers on loan for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile United’s newest scholar, goalkeeper Kie Plumley, has joined Combined Counties League side Camberley on loan until the end of the season.