SAM Long says Oxford United have got ‘five cup finals’ to secure a play-off place – starting against the team he grew up supporting.

The U’s host Sunderland this afternoon, following defeats on the road at Plymouth Argyle and then Morecambe in the last seven days.

Those defeats have seen United slip from fifth to eighth in Sky Bet League One, and are now three points outside the play-off places.

After a 2-1 defeat at home to Accrington Stanley last season left the U’s in 12th and six points shy of the play-offs, Long said the remaining seven fixtures had to be treated like cup finals.

That message remains the same as Long said his teammates are ready to roll their sleeves up, in order to get their promotion bid back on track.

“At this stage of the season, every game’s a must win, especially when you’re fighting to go up,” he said.

“If you go into a game thinking we don’t really need to win this, then straight away you’re on the back foot.

“We want to get promoted, so I think every player in the dressing room is thinking the same.

“We’ll leave everything on the pitch and we’ll see what happens.

“We’re still in a much better position than we were last year.

“We lost to AFC Wimbledon with three games to go and a lot of people were writing us off.

“In football, you never know what’s going to happen.

“We’ve still got to play a lot of teams around us, we’ve got five games left and they’ve got to be five cup finals.

“We’ve got to go into every game believing and making sure you leave everything on the pitch.”

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Long missed last year’s play-off semi-final defeat to Blackpool with a hamstring injury, something which acts as a further incentive for the defender this time round.

“The year before motivates me as well, because I know how hard it is to lose,” he said.

“If you asked anyone that was there that night, they want to put that right.

“Something stayed with them and that motivates a lot of the lads to push us into the play-offs and get promoted, because we’ve been so close the last few years.”

Bicester-born Long was a Black Cats supporter when he was younger, owing to his mum’s side of the family being from Sunderland and fans of the club.

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Long said: “I grew up a Sunderland fan, I’d say it’s not the same anymore.

“The rivalry we have got with them and being a footballer myself, the only thing I want to do is beat them.

“You could say that affiliation to the club isn’t there right now.

“I’ve been with Oxford since I was a kid, so I want this club to be successful more than that club.

“I’ve got more affiliation to this club than any in the country.

“I’m desperate for us to do well, I’m desperate for us to be successful and hopefully a win can put us on a good platform to go forward.”