JOSH Ruffels admits he is having to force himself to think about playing the most important games of his career.

It is now just a week before Oxford United start their Sky Bet League One play-off semi-final against Portsmouth at Fratton Park.

The return at the Kassam Stadium follows a week later, but much of the normal excitement around the games is missing.

Empty stands will greet the players as a result of coronavirus, instead of two packed houses.

Also read: Oxford United urge fans to stay away from play-off games

For Ruffels, the circumstances make it easy to let concentration slip, so he is going out of his way to think about the clashes.

“It will definitely be the biggest games (of my career),” Ruffels, who has made 266 appearances for the U’s, said.

“You’re sat at home all the time and you have to remind yourself that next week is going to be massive.

“I like to do it as much as I can so I get in that mind frame, otherwise you can relax a bit and get into a little bubble of not thinking about it too much.

“I’d rather be focused on it every day and making sure I’m ready for it.”

As part of the preparations, United’s players and staff have been tested twice a week for coronavirus.

So far there have only been two positive results in the camp, which have now been cleared.

But the wrong result – or the presence of symptoms – in the next few days could rule a player out of the entire play-off campaign.

It is a worry, with every cough or sneeze setting off alarm bells.

Ruffels said: “It is tough.

“We spoke yesterday in training about how important it is for these tests to be negative.

“We need to be really careful.”

It has meant that while the rest of the country is seeing restrictions ease, United’s players have gone into a stricter lockdown than before to reduce the risks.

Ruffels said: “I’ve stopped playing golf and have been getting home deliveries, just being as careful as I can.

“What’s the point in taking a risk when there’s so much on the line?

“It’s three weeks of your life to be sensible, do everything right and give yourself the best opportunity.”