YOU have to go back to 2011/12 for the last time Oxford United were fighting on only one front this early in the season.

At this stage of that campaign, Chris Wilder’s U’s were seventh in Sky Bet League Two and looked capable of sustaining a promotion push.

They fell away and finished ninth, so fewer fixtures does not necessarily mean you will end the season like a train.

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It feels wrong to treat the Emirates FA Cup as a distraction, especially because – no disrespect to Sutton United – there was a clear path to the third round and a potential big tie, which always generates money and excitement.

But United’s collapse at Bristol Rovers means they have 30 games from now until April 30 to turn a good start into a great season.

The first target is to be in the play-off picture come January – and that is easier said than done.

Six of United’s final nine matches of 2021 are against sides currently in Sky Bet League One’s top ten, including two meetings with tomorrow’s opponents Wigan Athletic.

If they are still in and around the play-off places after that run, it becomes a test for the board.

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If promotion is achievable, will they provide the backing to realise that dream?

Whatever happens in the transfer window, there will be no nine-game Februarys like previous years and that will surely benefit United.

Of course, that is still a long way away and a lot can change before then.

But there are no distractions between now and the end of the season and the U’s must make it count.