SIMON Eastwood has stressed the importance of Oxford United having one eye on the second leg when they play this afternoon.

Their Sky Bet League One play-off semi-final begins at Portsmouth, before the return at the Kassam Stadium on Monday.

Such two-legged ties are rarely encountered and United’s No 1 believes it is a key factor for the visitors to keep in mind, having seen Northampton Town overturn a 2-0 defeat in the semi-final first leg on the way to winning promotion from League Two.

Eastwood said: “I think we need to remember the game’s over two legs and can’t be won in the first one, as you saw with Cheltenham and Northampton.

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“It’s about going there, trying to get a positive result and staying in the game for the second leg.

“It’s going to be a tough game. I think we’re playing probably the best team of the three we could play.”

Having spent the 2012/13 season playing for Pompey, no one in the U’s squad knows better than the goalkeeper about what the hosts will be missing with the game being played behind closed doors.

However, Eastwood does not necessarily buy into the theory that the coronavirus restrictions will automatically hinder the home side.

“You can look at it both ways,” he said.

“When it’s going well it can be the best place ever, but when it’s not going too well it’s not a nice place to be as a home side and it definitely affects the players.

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“It will be a very strange atmosphere.

“We played at the Kassam on Sunday which was good but it was surreal playing with nobody there.

“It’s something we’ll have to get used to.”

In that context, particularly as a goalkeeper where you can go minutes without touching the ball, staying focused will be vital.

Eastwood said: “I thrive playing in bigger games and the crowd does come into that.

“Even where you look at the Newcastle FA Cup game this season it’s such a buzz playing at a ground like that for a start and then the fans make the atmosphere.

“You concentrate more when it’s noisy so it’s something we’ll have to learn how to deal with.

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“You just have to keep reminding yourself how important it is.”

Play-off games are by their nature high-pressure encounters, but this season’s editions will be even more unpredictable given none of the sides have played competitively since March.

Eastwood though thinks United’s successful cup runs may help them adapt to what is now knock-out football.

He said: “That’s a great way of looking at it.

“These are like cup games and since I’ve joined the club we’ve always seemed to have some sort of unbelievable cup run each season.

“We’ve not got a second chance so we have to be ready to stay in the game as long as we can.”