IT was always likely that this relentless Sky Bet League One season would start to take its toll.

After some bad luck with injuries at the start of the campaign, Oxford United made it through the first couple of months of 2021 relatively unscathed.

This coincided with their best form of the season, but injuries to Sam Winnall, James Henry, Elliot Lee and Sam Long in the last two games have badly depleted the squad.

When that quartet was fit, we were remarking on just how good United’s bench was – but now some of the players who were used sparingly will have to take a leading role.

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Even with seven absentees – that includes Marcus McGuane, John Mousinho and Luke McNally, who is still building up fitness – Karl Robinson can still field a strong starting XI.

But with two games each week the norm, it is simply impossible to keep going back to that same line-up.

Suddenly, players like Jamie Hanson, Dan Agyei and Rob Hall – who struggled to make the bench earlier in the campaign – will be called upon to do a job from the start.

It is said that you need a squad, not just a team, to achieve success in the EFL.

Those bit-part players now have a golden chance to make a telling impact on United’s season.