THE pre-match downpour that drenched Sincil Bank illustrated it well: when it rains, it pours.

That was certainly the case for Oxford United on an afternoon when it seemed like nothing went right.

A poor opening 45 minutes cost the U’s for the second Saturday running, although a first away defeat in Sky Bet League One since September felt like the least of their worries.

More damaging could be losing Herbie Kane for three matches, if his straight red card for a late challenge on Lewis Fiorini is upheld, and the injury to Cameron Brannagan.

Karl Robinson later criticised the latter’s agent after last week’s bid for the midfielder was leaked into the public domain and made a plea for United’s contract talks to get sorted as soon as possible.

The U's head coach was careful not to use off-pitch issues as an excuse, but they are unwelcome distractions.

While Kane and Brannagan will be pivotal in a promotion push, neither player's departure was the reason United left Lincoln City with nothing.

It could have been very different if Matty Taylor had beaten Josh Griffiths one-on-one after seven minutes, but he spurned a great chance for the second successive week.

The striker's U's career has gone in peaks and troughs, so hopefully this is not the start of a fallow spell.

Despite a 13-day wait since their last game and their lowly position, Lincoln won the midfield battle and exploited United’s vulnerability in wide areas time and again.

It was no surprise that Anthony Scully's opener was made possible by the space he was afforded on the left, while the U's were never able to shackle Morgan Whittaker and the debutant deserved his goal.

RATINGS: Every Oxford United player marked out of 10

Like earlier in the season, United lacked the clinical edge to reward an improved second-half display, where they kept fighting.

On a day of few positives, Marcus McGuane's lively performance off the bench may have come at the perfect time if Kane and Brannagan are unavailable at Wycombe Wanderers next week.

Are two poor performances cause for alarm? At this stage, I would suggest not.

Less than a fortnight ago we were purring about how United dismantled AFC Wimbledon and every team goes through bad spells in a 46-game season.

That being said, the lack of ruthlessness that has reared its head on the last two weekends cannot continue - especially with huge games against Wycombe and Sheffield Wednesday next up.

United's home game against the Chairboys followed a dispiriting away defeat, at Wimbledon, and they battled to a draw.

I think most U's fans would take that at Adams Park, however it comes.

If they can produce a performance worthy of a point or three, then everything will look a lot calmer again.