“Where we could end up, who knows? That will be driven by our ambition…”
Mark Bonner’s focus remains solely on the next game and will not allow complacency within his squad as the U’s look to continue their 100% winning start to the campaign.
“We’ve won two games, but it’s a lot of wins short of where we need to be. Everyone should be excited we’ve won our first league game, but there’s 45 to go so we know we’re miles away from where we’re going to be.
“If anyone’s the finished article on day one, they’ve got the wrong team. You can be motivated from the get go, but you need to add stamina to that and make it last for 40 weeks. That’s the challenge for everybody. We’ve already made progress, hopefully we can see more of that.”
On Oxford, who look to reclaim a play-off position come May after narrowly missing out, Mark admires the work Karl Robinson has done in constructing a promising side.
“We know how tough it will be, we found that out ourselves when we went there last season. They’re a top team with real expectation on them – but we know what to expect, we know it’s a big pitch and it will challenge us in lots of ways. It’s one to look forward to.”
Briefly reflecting on the clashes against the fellow U’s last campaign, the Head Coach was full of praise and will demand the same desire.
“The home game was a great occasion, the first time back after promotion with fans in the ground. I actually thought the away match was a really good game, we performed really well. What we weren’t able to do was contain them or make our moments of quality count enough – the timing of the goals hurt us.
“We’ll have to be as good with the ball and more clinical this time around. We’ll also have to defend brilliantly, you know how much they’ll dominate the ball. You have to commit to the game and give everything.
“What I hope is that we’re able to give a good level of ourselves and try and come away with something.”
The clash at the Kassam Stadium may prove to be one of many different examples where the U’s may need to adapt their game, exploit weaknesses and frustrate their opponents – just like they had done several times throughout 2021/22 season at Ipswich Town and Wigan Athletic for example.
“This is a new starting point for us, we’ve got to try and do that again. I’m sure, wherever we are now, there will be a development and evolution of this team, no question, because that’s how the players work. They’ve really bought into what we are doing.
Despite holding his cards close to his chest, Bonner did state that tinkering could be made to ensure the squad is as fresh as possible.
“We’ve got about six players that need checking after midweek. Our preparation work will have to take place Friday because we’ve got a few to see where we’re at. There may be changes to the team, even if I didn’t want to do that, but hopefully all those who have got knocks are able to play.
“But that’s why we have a squad - it happens throughout the season. But we’re pleased with how everybody’s shaping up and we know we’re still 4-6 weeks away from being at our best physically. There’s plenty of time to keep improving.”
If Tuesday evening showcased anything, it’s that this is a squad hungry for minutes after slotting into 2022/23 seamlessly. When given their chance, they’ll pounce. It’s enough to give the boss a selection headache – not that he’ll mind, for three points would certainly be the perfect remedy.