JOHN Mousinho says the ambition at Oxford United remains exactly the same – despite a ponderous start to the season which sees the U’s sit two points above the relegation zone.

United’s scheduled fixture at home to Fleetwood Town on Saturday was postponed due to international call-ups, however from the eight games which did take place in Sky Bet League One, the U’s were not pulled further into the early relegation scrap.

Going into the weekend, United sat 19th in the third tier, two points above the bottom four.

And that is exactly where the U’s lie following the international weekend.

It could’ve been worse though, if results had gone against Karl Robinson’s side.

A 4-0 defeat for Forest Green Rovers at home to Exeter City prevented United slipping to 20th in League One, as a win for the Gloucestershire side would have lifted them above the U’s.

Morecambe could’ve gone level on points with Robinson’s team if they had managed to beat Cambridge United, however goal difference is strongly in favour of the U’s on that front.

Three wins and five defeats from their opening nine matches in the league has led to an uncomfortable start to the season for United.

Despite the troublesome beginning, which sees the U’s seven points adrift of the play-off places, club captain Mousinho says promotion remains the target this campaign.

“Expectations are really high at this club, external and internal as well,” he said.

“We accept that, we want to get out the league, we’ve been very close in the last three seasons to achieving that.

“Our ambitions are exactly the same and when you’re closer to the relegation zone than the play-offs, there’s natural disappointment.

“Here, and in the dressing room as well.

“We’re willing to accept the pressure, we heap that upon ourselves more than anything, and again we’re going to have a nice period of reflection to think about that and come back stronger.”

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Following knee surgery in January 2021, Mousinho has taken a step back from regular playing time, with the 36-year-old often seen on the touchline, deep in conversation with Robinson and his coaching staff.

This season though, Mousinho has already played four times, starting in three of those.

In addition to the Carabao Cup defeat to Crystal Palace, and thrashing of Leyton Orient in the Papa John’s Trophy, Mousinho has also marshalled the defence against Burton Albion, while scoring a late consolation goal in the 2-1 defeat to MK Dons last time out.

Following the win against Burton, Mousinho said: “Last season I was always ready to play and I’ve still got that hunger and desire.

“I’m always nudging the manager gently, I never knock on his door or say anything other than I’m there if need be.

“Whether it’s the coaching aspect or the fact I’ve played so much football, I definitely think the game becomes easier in your head when you get older. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t necessarily match up to that.”