Oxford United endured a miserable week on the field with two more defeats, resulting in Karl Robinson’s side dropping out of the playoff places.
The U’s lost at strugglers Morecambe and promotion rivals Sunderland, leaving them outside the top six by four points with just four games remaining.
Oxford United Weekly Round-Up: Back to Back Defeats Leave Top Six Finish in Doubt
Defeat Against Strugglers Morecambe
Oxford’s promotion hopes took a huge blow on Tuesday night as the U’s lost 2-1 at strugglers Morecambe.
Matty Taylor had given Oxford a deserved early lead but the hosts scored twice within eight first-half minutes to take the lead.
The U’s registered 20 shots on goal and ended the match with over 70 per cent possession but were unable to find a way through. The result left Robinson’s side in eighth place, three points off a playoff spot ahead of the visit of Sunderland.
Oxford United Duo Return for Sunderland Clash
Oxford United received an injury boost ahead of their game against the Black Cats as captain Elliott Moore and influential midfielder Cameron Brannagan both became available.
The duo missed the recent defeats to Plymouth Argyle and Morecambe with illness and injury respectively.
Brannagan has netted 13 goals this season and played more minutes than any other U’s player, while Moore was set for his first appearance since a 1-0 win over Crewe Alexandra in February.
“They’re massive players for us,” Karl Robinson told the Oxford Mail.
“The seven-day concussion protocol with Cameron has been cleared today, so he’s back in training. Elliott Moore is back in training today.
“We’ll have two big players back for the game and it gives me an opportunity to pick a team that can cope with certain aspects of the opposition.
“The team that we’re playing have got some wonderful, gifted players and we’ll have to be at our best to get something out of the weekend.”
Playoff Hopes in Doubt Following Third Successive Loss
Oxford headed into Saturday’s game against Sunderland in need of a win, having already dropped out of the top six.
Despite a bright start, it was the Black Cats that took an early lead. However, the U’s levelled ten minutes before the break when Moore headed home a Billy Bodin free-kick.
The U’s dominated the second half but failed to score. Luke McNally missed the target, Ciaron Brown was denied by a brilliant save and Bodin saw a free-kick hit the bar. Sunderland scored what proved to be the winner in the 89th minute and Oxford were unable to find a way back into the game, despite further chances in injury time.
The result leaves Oxford four points behind Sunderland but the Black Cats have played one game fewer.