There’s just one week to go now before Oxford United travel to Fratton Park to take on Portsmouth in the first leg of the Sky Bet League 1 play-offs.
Another week of training has been tough in the sun but with another round of testing coming back all clear things are starting to come into sharp focus now for the U's.
“I like to keep reminding myself how close they are now so I can get into the right mindset” defender Josh Ruffels told us. “They will be the biggest games of my career and they are only a week away now. For me, personally, I don’t want to relax and then the games suddenly come along, I want to focus and be totally ready for it."
The U’s have gathered pace as they have come through a series of behind closed doors friendlies and Josh, fresh from agreeing a new extension to his contract earlier in the summer, believes they are on target to peak at precisely the right time
“The Gaffer was right when he told us on day one “don’t get frustrated in the first session”. 100 days without playing a game is probably the longest any of us have ever gone so it was always going to take time but the sessions we have had, and the friendly matches, have left us looking pretty good.
“I was OK when we came back in terms of fitness. We had programmes to follow and I felt quite good. But it’s more with the ball. Control and technique go out of the window if you don’t play for three months. It’s mad how much you lose it over that period but the warm up games have been good and we have looked pretty sharp. Everyone has the match fitness now. There have been a couple of niggles but you will get that
“We have done well in the games and we have sacrificed a lot over the last few weeks. Why not? It’s three weeks of your life, that’s the way I look at it, so be sensible and give yourself the best opportunity of staying healthy and being involved in two, hopefully three, massive games.
“I have been watching games on TV and was heartbroken for Charlie Raglan the other night with Cheltenham. But I watched those play-off games with an eye on what we will be experiencing ourselves.
"They really showed that you can’t take anything for granted in play-off games. Mentally, just be ready, forget the strange surroundings and just play your usual game so that when fans come back they hopefully get to see their team playing Championship football.”