STEPHAN Negru remains on the right path in his development, believes Oxford United head coach Des Buckingham.

Negru has played in 17 games out of a possible 42 in all competitions for the U’s this season, with his most recent display earning rave reviews.

The 21-year-old centre back relished the aerial challenge presented by Wycombe Wanderers at the weekend, and more than played his part in United securing a clean sheet.

It was a first shutout since December 16, when the U’s won 3-0 at home to Burton Albion.

Negru has rarely put a foot wrong since being thrust into first team action last season, and a string of solid displays at the beginning of this campaign saw him linked with a move to Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion.

Former United boss Liam Manning described the speculation as ‘just noise’, although Negru was later rewarded with a ‘longer-term deal’ in early September.

Negru has since been in and out of the squad, while a hamstring injury ruled him out for a number of weeks from December to January.

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Discussing Negru’s development, Buckingham said: “He needs to keep learning, firstly from Elliott Moore, who is a wonderful role model.

“Elliott’s still young himself, but to have someone like Elliott, as club captain, to be around day-to-day, will help serve him in his development.

“Then, to continue developing his own playing style with the coaches, and the way we want him to play.

“Whether he plays in place of Elliott, as we saw at the weekend, or whether he’s used in a different system, like we have done in a back three at times, that’s two different ways he can play.

“As a young player trying to forge your career, when you’ve got senior players in front of you, it can be difficult.

“The pleasing thing is that Steph is one of many good people here. He knows what he’s here for and he’s working very hard on his game.

“When he gets his opportunities, which he has got since I’ve been here, he’s ready to step in and step up, because he needs to contribute.”