Oxford United Weekly Round-Up: League One Playoff Hopes Still Alive for the U’s

League One playoff

Oxford United have kept their League One playoff hopes alive with a dramatic win over Shrewsbury Town on Saturday. In addition, Tuesday night’s results also went in favour for the U’s as both Portsmouth and Charlton Athletic conceded stoppage time equalisers.

Also this week, the club activated a one-year extension for midfield duo Mark Sykes and Alex Rodriguez Gorrin, who were out of contract in the summer. Elsewhere, reports suggested that Cameron Brannagan was subject of interest for a couple of Championship clubs, Rob Atkinson was named in the League One Team of the Season and manager Karl Robinson rebuffed talks regarding a new contract for Josh Ruffels.

Oxford United Weekly Round-Up: League One Playoff Hopes Still Alive

Win Over Shrewsbury Keeps League One Playoff Hopes Alive for Oxford United

Ten league games into the new season, Oxford United had recorded seven losses. Now, the U’s are just one point outside a top-six finish with just one match remaining. However, things very nearly went against them in Shropshire.

Despite taking an early lead through Luton Town loanee Elliot Lee, the Shrews came back with two quickfire goals to put the visitors under the cosh.

However, Oxford came out fighting after the restart and levelled through James Henry before Dan Agyei saw a deflected effort sail in with just five minutes remaining.

The U’s probably thought they had completed the comeback, but goalkeeper Jack Stevens was still on hand to expertly deny two late chances for the hosts.

Oxford held on to secure all three points, leaving them one point behind Portsmouth, who occupy the final League One playoff spot.

Tuesday Night Results: League One Playoff Battle Still Ongoing

Despite not being in action on Tuesday night, results elsewhere were almost perfect from an Oxford perspective.

The U’s had moved up to fifth last Saturday with a win over Plymouth Argyle while Blackpool lost against the Shews. As a result, Oxford, Blackpool and Portsmouth were all level on 68 points but the U’s had played more games.

However, after Tuesday’s fixtures, the U’s dropped out of the playoffs, falling to seventh. Blackpool won at Sunderland, giving them a three-point advantage over Oxford, but both Portsmouth and Charlton conceded late goals to draw their respective games.

Despite falling out of the top six, the late goals conceded by Pompey and the Addicks could be crucial by the time next Sunday comes around.

Preston North End and Millwall Leading the Race for Cameron Brannagan

On Thursday, a report by Football Insider claimed that Preston North End and Millwall were leading the race to sign U’s midfielder, Cameron Brannagan.

Oxford rejected a bid from the Lions in January, thought to be in the region of £500,000, but the 24-year-old remains one of their top transfer targets.

Brannagan only signed a contract extension in the summer, meaning he is under contract until 2023, but U’s boss Karl Robinson confirmed that there is a buyout clause.

New Deals for Midfield Duo

Oxford still have a number of players out of contract in the summer, but the club have activated a one-year extension on midfield duo Mark Sykes and Alex Rodriguez Gorrin.

Sykes, who joined from NIFL Premiership side Glenavon in January 2019, and Gorrin, who arrived from Motherwell six months later, have both done enough to warrant a new deal.

Sykes has been hit and miss for the U’s this season but has enjoyed his best run of games for some time. While he still lacks goals and assists, the 23-year-old brings another dimension to the Oxford midfield.

As for Gorrin, he has a stellar debut season last time out but has struggled with injury this season. While he has still managed 38 appearances in all competitions, the combative defensive midfielder offers protection to the back four and can is also comfortable bringing the ball out from defence.

Contract Talks at a Standstill With Josh Ruffels

Oxford-born defender Josh Ruffels is still yet to sign a new deal. The 27-year-old has had another solid season, scoring six goals and assisting six from left-back.

However, the defender is out of contract in the summer and contract talks have been ongoing for some time, with both parties seemingly failing to agree on a deal.

Speaking on BBC Radio Oxford’s Five Minutes Fans Forum on Thursday, Robinson revealed he wasn’t willing to discuss the current situation. When asked if he knew anything about a new deal, he said: “No. No, not yet. I don’t want to comment on that.

“Let’s Let’s just see how that unfolds in the next few weeks.”

Rob Atkinson Named in League One Team of the Season

Rob Atkinson has had a solid debut season for the U’s, so much so that the 22-year-old has been selected in the League One Team of the Season.

While the former Eastleigh defender hasn’t contributed in front of goal as the rest of the back four, Atkinson has embedded himself well into the League One side in what is his first season in the Football League.

Strong in the air and comfortable with the ball at his feet, Atkinson is a very confident young defender. This achievement highlights just how well he has settled at the club in his first season.

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