OXFORD United supporters have been praised for their backing of the side – but are reminded to stay away from the play-off games.

It is a huge frustration for thousands they cannot attend the Sky Bet League One semi-final against Portsmouth, which would otherwise have easily sold out.

The games must be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kassam Stadium’s open end makes it more vulnerable than Fratton Park, which hosts the first leg on Friday, but detailed plans are in place to secure the site for Monday’s return.

Niall McWilliams, United’s managing director, acknowledged the difficult situation it had put fans in, but stressed the need to watch from home.

“I totally understand, because I’m one of those people who followed Oxford United all over the country,” he said.

“If I was in that position and couldn’t attend the game I’d be heartbroken, but unfortunately we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and it’s different circumstances.

“The security is probably even more exacting than if there was a full crowd here.

“There will be a police presence and a stewarding presence, it will just be behind closed doors.”

He added: “If we’re being perfectly frank we’re still concerned about people coming near the ground because that would cause us a few issues we’d have to manage.

“We just want the team to concentrate on winning those two matches.”

Hundreds of cardboard cut-outs have been bought and will be in the ground.

They will add colour and have given United a much-needed source of revenue after more than three months in lockdown.

Even more important are the scale of renewals on season tickets, which passed 3,000 before the deadline this week.

McWilliams said: “I’m very pleased, but I’m not surprised because I think there’s a hard core of Oxford fans, like myself in the past, who make sure they’re supporting the club.

“The support for this club continues to grow.

“From my perspective we’re very hopeful of getting to the Championship, but the progress we’ve made in the last year is pretty amazing.

“Now we have to build on it – on and off the pitch.”