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Oxford United must kick-on
Few people in football can call on the depth of experience Andy Melville has at his disposal.
But even the Oxford United first-team coach admitted he moved into uncharted territory by the side’s recent losing slump.
A desperate September saw the U’s lose six successive league games, their worst run in a full season for 25 years.
The search for a solution prompted Melville to look back over a career which took in more than 900 appearances for club and country.
But even such a rich CV failed to match a barren run quite as prolonged, which meant Melville was as thrilled as anyone by Tuesday’s 3-2 win against AFC Wimbledon.
“You can tell it’s a relief for everyone,” he said.
“You look back on your experience as a player and a coach and you think ‘have I been through this before?’ “I just can’t remember losing six on the bounce, it’s a difficult situation and all you can do is be positive and work hard.
“It will always turn, just like it did the other way when we won three in a row at the start of the season.
“Football can kick you in the teeth at times, but we’ve responded now and hopefully we can go from strength to strength.”
Melville plied his trade as a defender, so it was with some dismay that he has watched 21 goals fly in during the last eight games.
Restoring the resilience which earned three successive clean sheets at the start of the season has been a priority this week.
The 43-year-old is unhappy with the record, but believes the buck stops with the team as a whole, rather than with just the back four.
He said: “You can’t go blaming units – when you’re not scoring you don’t point your finger at certain players.
“You’re all in it together, everyone goes back at set-plays and the strikers and midfielders have all got their jobs. We just need to tighten up on that.
“The biggest thing I think in football is when we’ve got the ball we need to be organised.
“We need to improve on that, but in general, believe it or not, we’ve defended OK.”
League leaders Gillingham visit the Kassam Stadium to put the U’s newfound confidence to the test.
Melville said: “It will be difficult because they’ve started the season really well.
“But if we put the same work ethic in and stick together then hopefully we’ll be OK.
“We want the players to enjoy it when we win, but as coaches we’re the boring ones who tell them to get ready for the next game, because they come thick and fast.
“You remind them they have to get their recovery right and look after themselves, because it’s a big game against Gillingham.
“It’s a good home game for us and it would be a good scalp if we could get a result against them.”
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