PEP Clotet’s level-headed approach has been tested to the limit this week, but Oxford United’s poor run and injury woes will not change his mentality.

A below-par display six days ago saw the U’s fall to a fourth straight defeat in all competitions as Northampton Town left the Kassam Stadium with a 2-1 win.

But if their form on the pitch was not already providing boss Clotet with a big enough headache, two more players were added to an already-congested treatment room.

Captain Curtis Nelson was stretchered off against the Cobblers and on Monday, early fears he would miss the rest of the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon were confirmed.

However, just as United were getting over losing their skipper, the news that winger Rob Hall has damaged cartilage in his right knee and faces four months on the sidelines was a blow Clotet could have done without.

Losing two influential players will undoubtedly have an impact, but the U’s boss is refusing to be too downbeat ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Plymouth Argyle in Sky Bet League One.

“I’m always very balanced and it’s important to stay the same even when you lose or win,” he said.

“Obviously we want to be in a better position, but we have to judge the situation the team is in and the injuries have put us in a tougher situation.

“My focus is always to tell the players that is the reality, because emotions tend to get in the way of everything after a defeat.

“You tend to think everything is really bad, and after a win you think you’re going to get promoted, and that is not the way it works.

“It is important to keep the players’ feet on the ground, never be dragged down because of a defeat.

“I really have a lot of confidence in them because I have seen the team taking huge steps.”

United are without a win in six games, but two of those defeats have come in cup competitions.

It means, despite the poor run, the U’s sit only three points adrift of the play-offs.

And Clotet hopes this week’s bad news will galvanise his squad.

He said: “I think the moment we are in now, leaderships will appear inside the team and it will make us stronger.

“I really trust the players, because I think they’ve been doing fantastic.

“They’re not happy with the last result obviously, but they are really focused on doing the best for the club.

“I think they deserved more last Saturday, when you look back at the game the effort and attitude was there, and you can always have a few mistakes.

“Now is a good moment for the team to take the next step because of what happened to Curtis, other players, and the situation we’re in.”