JOHNNY Mullins will remain a target for Oxford United even though a successful loan spell was cut short this week.
The centre back was outstanding during his seven-week stay with the U’s, scoring twice in eight games.
But an injury crisis at parent club Rotherham United saw the 27-year-old recalled in time for this weekend.
It was a setback for Oxford, who were hoping the defender would serve the full three months of his loan move.
But it does not necessarily mean Mullins has played his final game for the U’s, who will continue to keep tabs on the former Reading trainee.
“Obviously we wanted him to stay and Johnny was enjoying it himself, but Rotherham are his club, so there’s not a lot we can do about it,” United assistant manager Mickey Lewis said.
“He will definitely stay on our radar.
“The good thing about having him here is not only do we know he’s a good player, which we knew anyway, but that we know his character, which is really good.
“He’s obviously a player we’ll keep our eye on, who knows.
“He’s come here and done really well, but I’m sure that’s alerted other people as well.”
Michael Raynes and Harry Worley are the most likely players to replace Mullins at the heart of United’s back four against Northampton Town tomorrow.
Michael Duberry has returned to full training after recovering from neck surgery, but Lewis feels it is too early to bring the veteran back.
He said: “I’m sure if you said to Michael Duberry ‘can you play tomorrow?’ he would probably go and do it for you, but with something as serious as that you have to be really careful.”
United go into the game on the back of a 2-2 draw at Barnet on Tuesday night, which extended the team’s winless run to four games.
But despite sitting 18th in the table, the vast majority of U’s fans have been largely positive during games.
Lewis is unsurprised, believing those watching games understand the results are not matching the performances.
He said: “It’s for the simple reason that if I was a supporter and I could see people not closing down, not working hard enough and shying away from the ball then I think you have an entitlement to be a little bit fed up with it – I think I would be.
“But if I’m an Oxford United supporter at the moment I’m looking at a team and going home every game going ‘I can’t believe we haven’t got a result there’.
“If I was a supporter I would be happy with the performances and just disappointed that we’re not picking up results.
“I believe while the lads are like that they’ll have the backing of the supporters.”