IF you had said a month ago that the final game of Oxford United’s campaign would be a glorified pre-season friendly, it would have been a brave shout.

For a long time it looked like the U’s would have at least a Sky Bet League One play-off place in their sights against Doncaster Rovers, but seven points in seven matches during April dashed those hopes.

The last game of the season fizzled out like United’s end to 2021/22 as they took the lead, failed to add to it and were pegged back in an underwhelming second half.

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Billy Bodin's 23rd-minute opener capped a strong finish to the campaign for the forward, which will hopefully help him hit the ground running next term.

But Doncaster did not go down without a fight and United continued their habit of conceding avoidable goals right to the end, with Josh Martin's long-range effort deceiving Jack Stevens.

It was never really about the result, though, particularly after Karl Robinson warned he would pick a team with next season in mind.

James Golding only came into the starting XI after Elliott Moore’s wife went into labour on Saturday morning, yet the teenager appeared at ease on his full debut.

Yes, there was the odd mistake – a calamitous own goal would have surely dented his confidence – but the 17-year-old looked more comfortable in possession than many League One centre backs we have seen this season.

The U's have made a habit of scoring late in 2021/22, particularly in front of the Jim Smith Stand, and it would have been fitting for Golding to produce one more memorable moment.

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We did not learn much about the rest of United’s line-up with most of them expected to be here in 2022/23, while Mark Sykes’ omission was a pretty firm indicator that he has made his last appearance for the club.

It was already fairly clear which players Robinson wants to stay and it will be interesting to see if Herbie Kane’s groin injury changes the head coach’s plan for the on-loan Barnsley midfielder.

The United boss has 89 days until the start of next season to build a squad capable of challenging for promotion for the fourth successive year.

He already knows who he wants to keep and his comments this week suggest he is as willing as ever to tie down transfer targets.

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It is a good starting point going into the summer, although the speculation over United's stars will doubtless continue until the end of August.

Missing out on the play-offs is disappointing, even though 76 points in an ultra-competitive League One is impressive whichever way you spin it.

Can United improve next season, both in terms of points and position? Only time will tell, but getting out of this division is unlikely to get much easier.