LAST season’s play-off heartbreak could be a powerful tool for Oxford United this time around, says Gary Bloom.

The U’s are seeking to go one better than 2019/20, when they lost 2-1 to Wycombe Wanderers in the Sky Bet League One final.

United must first get past Blackpool in this week’s semi-final to reach the national stadium for a second successive year, with Brandon Barker, Elliot Lee, Mide Shodipo and Sam Winnall the only players likely to be involved who were not at the club last season.

While the majority of the U’s squad will recall all too well the feeling of losing at Wembley, club psychotherapist Bloom believes they will channel it positively against Blackpool.

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He said: “We face failure in two ways: we can use it or we fear it’ll happen again.

“This is a really important fork in the road.

“When we look back at that failure, have we learned?

“I would argue the answer is yes – I don’t see any fear.”

Bloom added: “We’ve felt the pain and when we’ve been through a traumatic experience we know what the worst possible outcome could be.

“If you’re in the right frame of mind, that can create no fear.”

Last season’s final was just the third time United had played behind closed doors, an experience that would have been especially alien in a stadium the size of Wembley.

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They have grown used to that feeling in a campaign where only four U’s matches have taken place in front of fans, but 4,000 people are allowed in for tonight’s first leg at the Kassam Stadium.

It is way below the five-figure crowd the fixture would have attracted in normal times, while roughly the same number of Blackpool supporters will be at Friday’s second leg at Bloomfield Road.

A University of Naples study in 2014 found that teams with a larger support scored around 0.45 more goals than their opponents and Bloom is confident United will rise to the occasion.

“The players went through all that pain (last year) without the equivalent of their family – the fans,” he said.

“I would urge all Oxford fans to make as much noise as two others.

“There are certainly players who will want to show the fans what they’ve been missing.

“They want to do it in front of their supporters.”

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It should make for a cracking atmosphere come kick-off and Bloom expects it to have an impact on the visitors.

He said: “In my opinion, their anxieties will be at their greatest in the opening 30 to 35 minutes when they won’t have any fans there.

“They’ll want to make sure Oxford don’t take a 2-0 or 3-0 lead.

“Psychologically, I think it could be a very interesting period.”