OXFORD United’s clash with Tranmere Rovers represents more than just a chance to reach Wembley for Karl Robinson.

The Merseyside club were not just one of the Liverpool-born manager’s closest teams geographically when he was growing up, but also the side supported by his late father-in-law.

Robinson has a deep affection for the Sky Bet League Two outfit, yet his task is to find a way past Tranmere in this evening’s Papa John’s Trophy semi-final.

The U’s head coach said: “It was my wife’s father’s team.

“Even when I’d go there as a manager he’d sit in the same seat and probably be singing songs against me.

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“Even though my side of the family are big Liverpool fans, they’re a football club that are really close to our hearts.

“He’ll still be looking down and wanting Tranmere to win.

“My wife’s got to make sure she’s on my side of the fence.

“I’ve got tremendous respect for Tranmere and it’s a game that I’m looking forward to.”

While United are favourites to progress to the final on March 14, their opponents will believe they can spring a shock.

Tranmere are fourth in League Two and top the division’s form table over the last ten games, while they beat League One high-fliers Peterborough United 2-1 in the quarter-finals.

United’s own impressive recent results mean the two sides have lost just twice in their last 25 matches combined.

Tranmere have also had a week to prepare after Saturday’s game against Grimsby Town was postponed, leaving Robinson wary of the visitors’ threat.

He said: “They’re coming with loads of confidence.

“You just have to look at their team – James Vaughan, Jay Spearing, they’re littered with good players.

“It was made even more difficult when their game was called off and our game (against Wigan) was pushed back closer to this one.

“I’m sure their players will use that as an opportunity to make it difficult for us.”

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Tranmere’s last visit to the Kassam Stadium came as a League One side in September 2019, when they lost 3-0.

The season ended in controversy for tonight’s visitors, as they were relegated on an unweighted points per game method after the coronavirus pandemic halted proceedings.

Tranmere won their last three matches before the season was suspended and have Robinson’s sympathies.

He said: “Arguably it’s unfair that Tranmere find themselves in League Two.

“It’s not right the way the season finished.

“It’s sad that they went down when they were in half-decent form and probably would have got out of the relegation fight.”