JOSH Ruffels expects Lincoln City to prove a much tougher opponent than the last time Oxford United visited Sincil Bank.

The U’s start the Sky Bet League One campaign against the Imps tomorrow in a fixture that holds fond memories for members of last season’s squad.

Last September, Ruffels was part of the United side that thrashed Lincoln 6-0 to claim their record league away win.

But the season-opener will be very different, with the hosts –managed by ex-U’s boss Michael Appleton – making 12 signings in the transfer window so far.

Arguably the biggest change is the lack of fans, with games taking place behind closed doors until at least October.

Ruffels knows United will be faced with a completely different test to the last time they visited Lincoln and is braced for the challenge.

He said: “A lot’s happened since then – our team is only slightly different, but the surroundings and the atmosphere are different.

“It can be intimidating, but we managed to get through it last season, so maybe it could work in our favour.

“They’ve made a lot of signings so you can’t really compare the two games, even though in the back of our minds we’ve got good memories.

“We’ll just take the positives from that and hope we can get three points to start the season.”

It is three years since Appleton left United, with Ruffels, Simon Eastwood, Sam Long and Rob Hall the only survivors from his time at the club.

The defender was part of the U’s side that won promotion from League Two under the Mancunian in 2015/16, and expects Lincoln to provide a stern test.

Ruffels said: “He builds great squads wherever he goes so we know it’ll be a tough challenge on Saturday, but it’s one we’re all looking forward to.”

Tomorrow marks the eighth league campaign the left back has started at United.

After struggling to pin down a place in the side as a midfielder, the 26-year-old has become one of the most dependable members of the U’s squad since moving into defence.

Ruffels has racked up 101 appearances since the start of 2018/19 and, as currently United’s only recognised left back, is ready for more of the same this season.

He said: “I enjoyed my time in midfield but I think the gaffer has enhanced me as a player at left back.

“To be the only one means a lot of game time, but I’ll take playing every week so I’m not complaining.

“I’ve done it the last two years, so fingers crossed I can do it again this season.”