KEEPING cool heads is the key to getting the results Oxford United need to stay up in the final nine games, according to Jamie Mackie.

Karl Robinson’s side slipped back into the Sky Bet League One relegation zone with a 1-0 loss at Gillingham on Saturday.

And while a goalless draw kept fellow strugglers Rochdale below them in midweek, it was not enough to lift the U’s out of the bottom four.

The lower half of the table remains heavily congested, with 13th-placed Wycombe Wanderers only four points above the drop zone.

Watch: Highlights from United's clash with Rochdale

With so many sides involved, Mackie believes the difference between surviving and going down will be on which groups of players hold their nerve the best.

“If you panic, you’re in trouble,” said the forward, who captained the side at Spotland with John Mousinho only fit enough for the bench.

“The group of players and staff who keep the most level-headed between now and the end of the season will probably be the ones who keep themselves above water.

“The teams that get nervous and go under, it will be tough for them to stay in the division.

“We hope we can draw on whatever experiences we’ve had as a group.

“That’s the aim with nine games to go now.”

Staying calm is easier said than done as the pressure cranks up.

United boss Karl Robinson admitted he felt his side showed signs of tension at Rochdale.

Also read: Oxford United's point at Rochdale could be crucial, says Curtis Nelson

And the dropped points mean the stakes will be even higher when second-bottom Bradford City visit the Kassam Stadium this Saturday.

In such circumstances the senior players are needed more than ever to offer guidance.

Mackie, who is on course to reach 500 career appearances next month, is keen to shoulder as much responsibility as possible.

The 33-year-old said: “Your role changes as you get more experience.

“You have to be there and be someone others can look at and see you’re not getting affected by it.

“It’s about being there to help the squad around the training ground and being positive.

“That’s part of your role. If that’s my main responsibility between now and the end of the season and we stay up (fine).

“It doesn’t matter who keeps us in the division, if we all stay balanced as a squad I think we’ve got enough to stay up.

“Be positive, that’s the key to getting out of a situation like this.

“Whatever I’m asked by the manager I’m willing to do it.”