THE unfamiliar surroundings for the play-off games create problems and opportunities, according to Oxford United’s psychotherapist Gary Bloom.

With the coronavirus pandemic preventing supporters from attending the matches, these high-stakes games will have a feel unlike any other.

And United, who are the only club to have someone like Bloom in their camp, have been looking at ways to overcome the lack of atmosphere.

He said: “The theory is there are two types of footballers.

“One group are the ones who would probably play on the Sunday afternoon if they weren’t professionals and then there are entertainers, who love being in front of a crowd.

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“I think this is a really interesting split, because for the first group I don’t think it’s going to be a major issue.

“But for the ones who gain their energy from playing in front of a crowd, I think it is.

“I’ve been working with the first team talking about this and the idea that if you’re not going to get your energy from the crowd, where are you going to get it from?”

But while the entertainers will be looking for a way to replace the buzz, another type could rise to the – lack of – occasion for boss Karl Robinson’s side.

Bloom said: “If you’ve blasted a couple of free-kicks well wide and you go up to take a third, sometimes you can hear the crowd groan.

“All that’s gone, so I think it’s a great opportunity for players who are adversely influenced by a crowd’s reaction to play with freedom.

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“There are players I’ve seen who are brilliant in training but can’t do it as well in front of a crowd.

“I think that gives Karl one or two options about players who might not be at their best when the pressure’s on.”

Robinson is a big advocate of the benefits which can be reaped from working on the mental side of the game.

In a semi-final tie where a year’s work could come down to a few key moments, any help could be crucial.

The hope is the work done already through the campaign will be of use in the next 180 minutes.

“The problem I think psychologically is the old cliche about the football season being a marathon not a sprint does not hold – this is the other way around,” said Bloom, who has also been working on how to improve their chances if it comes down to a penalty shoot-out on Monday night after the second leg.

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“Essentially you’re playing tournament football, where there is very little room for error.

“That means if we do make mistakes we’ve got to get over them quickly.

“One of the things I’ve worked on consistently over the last 18 months is not what we call catastrophise.

“If we let in a goal it just has to be like conceding a corner, we just get on with it and don’t dwell on it.”