THERE is plenty of mutual respect between Oxford United and Portsmouth – but Karl Robinson knows that will go out the window for 90 minutes tonight.

The U’s face Kenny Jackett’s side for the sixth time since October 2019, with the previous five meetings – including the 1-1 draw at Fratton Park in November – finishing level at the end of normal time.

Portsmouth’s last visit to the Kassam Stadium was memorable for United, who won 5-4 on spot-kicks to reach the Sky Bet League One play-off final last July.

With the U’s eighth, three places behind tonight’s visitors, both teams are in the mix again and Robinson knows his side must stand up and be counted.

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“There’s immense respect between the two teams – I don’t think there’s ever been a bad word spoken,” the U’s head coach said.

“I don’t think it’s feisty in relation to bad tackles, it’s just two teams that care.

“The players respect each other before and after, but during the game you put all friendships to one side and you go toe-to-toe.

“This is probably the most honest fixture we’ll play all season.”

A run of seven points from seven games has seen Portsmouth lose ground on the automatic promotion places.

But with attacking players like Ronan Curtis, Marcus Harness, John Marquis and ex-U’s loanee Ryan Williams at their disposal, Robinson is aware how dangerous the visitors can be.

He said: “You always know how hard you have to fight to beat them and how well you’re going to have to play.

“With Portsmouth it’s not just about effort, it’s about 100 per cent attention to detail.

“The second you get it wrong, they have the players capable of beating any team in the league.

“The front four is as good as it gets and you also have to work hard to score against them.

“You know you’re coming up against a very balanced team.”

United’s stalemate at Ipswich Town on Saturday saw them fail to score in consecutive games for the first time since October.

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The U’s worked hard without finding a moment of quality to take the points at Portman Road and Robinson expects more matches of that ilk during their congested run-in.

He said: “We’re playing so many games, it’s relentless.

“If you have to win scrappy, you win scrappy.

“You have to have discipline when all around you is going a bit crazy.

“Keep calm and hope you can win through a set-play, one moment of magic or a mistake.

“Just don’t get done on a set-play or a mistake yourselves.

“You’ve just got to make sure that you stay strong in your mentality and that’s been very good from us recently.

“It has stood us in good stead.”