Ryan Clarke intends to use the disappointing end to last season as motivation to improve for Oxford United when competitive football restarts next month.

The goalkeeper has now fully recovered from a deep muscle tear just below his ribs, which proved to be a crucial moment in United’s last campaign.

Clarke was a virtual ever-present since joining the U’s in 2009 until picking up the injury against Torquay United on Easter Monday.

It meant the normally reliable stopper conceded a soft 90th-minute equaliser as the Gulls pinched a point in a 2-2 draw at the Kassam Stadium .

The injury relegated the 30-year-old to a spectator as United’s play-off campaign unravelled, picking up two points from the final four games.

Clarke is keen to put the episode behind him, but has been using it to get fired up for this season.

He said: “The Torquay goal was a shame. Had I been fit, I would have saved it, because I went with a totally untechnical way to try and save it. “I knew I had to face the fact I was going to miss the end of the season and possibly the play-offs if we got there, which was a massive disappointment.

“But that’s done now and it’s given me that extra bit of incentive to put it right and try to go one better for this season.”

Although the timing of the injury cost Clarke a role in the run-in, the close season allowed him to recover gradually.

The former Bristol Rovers goalkeeper admitted to feeling apprehensive before training began, but looked in good form as he kept a clean sheet in the 1-0 friendly victory over West Ham last week.

He said: “I kept on top of it in the summer and got extra fit to make sure there was no recurrence of the injury, because I don’t want to miss anything in pre-season or the start of the season.

“I knew it needed a good rest to get it right, and touch wood, I’ve done that and had no recurrences of it. I’m ready to push on this year.”

United’s strength last season was at the back, with only two clubs in League Two conceding fewer goals.

Clarke was a key factor in that consistency and wants more of the same from the back four.

He said: “As a group at the back last year we did really well. “We’ll be looking to put in a similar performance this season in terms of keeping clean sheets and letting the other boys get on with it to score the goals.”

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