Darryl Eales' notes from this evening's matchday magazineGood evening and welcome to tonight's game against Morecambe. Can I extend a special welcome to the supporters, players and officials from Morecambe - they were excellent hosts when we visited the Globe Arena early in the season. They have enjoyed a good season on the fringe of the play-off places and tonight will be a tough test for us.
This is the business end of the season and we all share the disappointment of our league position. There is, however, no complacency and no negativity. We have 13 cup ties to ensure we finish the season with positive momentum. We need cool heads and calm decision making. There is a steely togetherness in the camp and a determination to reward supporters with performances to shout about and results to match.
We will conduct a thorough and no-holds-barred review of the progress we have made this season and where improvement is required in due course. I sincerely believe, however, that now is not that time. Now is the time for all of us to get behind the players and act as the collective 12th man!
The first two games of our "15-game season" have seen two strong, highly competitive performances and four valuable points. A settled side saw players stand up and be counted in all areas of the pitch - epitomised by a togetherness and collective commitment which must continue for the remainder of the season and beyond. This is a minimum requirement.
The atmosphere at the home game against Mansfield was superb and the away support at Fratton Park was brilliant - I know the players feed off this and comment to a man that your support really does make a difference.
Away from the pitch, our last home game saw a fantastic effort from the Yellow Army, with three groups of fans walking 12 miles to the game from Thame, Woodstock and Eynsham. This hardy band included Les Phillips from our Milk Cup winning side of 1986 and the players from our successful women’s side, taking a break from their pre-season ahead of the news WSL2 season. I know that what happens on the pitch will always be paramount but seeing the whole club united in events like the Big Walk 2 is a reminder of the role the club plays at the heart of the community. The walk grows each year and we hope to see many more fans walking next year - watch this space!
Speaking of togetherness, the players went away last week to Bisham Abbey for a few days. The squad is now settled for the remainder of the season and this was a good opportunity to build camaraderie and team spirit in first-class facilities.
Like all fans, I was delighted that we have agreed a new longer-term deal with Callum O’Dowda. Callum is "one of our own" and is a credit to the club, both on and off the pitch. I hope he will go on to play a central part in a successful Oxford United future.
Building a successful squad requires many types of player but building a successful and sustainable CLUB means finding, developing and nurturing the best players in Oxfordshire. Callum, Sam Long, Josh Ruffels, James Roberts and Josh Ashby have all played a part this season while two more first year pros, Aidan Hawtin and Sam Humphreys, scored in the Senior Cup win last week. There are more good players coming through in all the age groups below them and there is a terrific sense of achievement when a local lad like Callum earns the plaudits and commits himself to the club for the foreseeable future.
Evening games have their own unique atmosphere. Tonight is no exception - let's make it a really special occasion.