“It’ll be a brilliant atmosphere to go and play in. We’ll have to be courageous, but we don’t want to go there and defend for the whole game…”
Mark Bonner has seen enough to be enthused by how his squad have approached the 2022/23 season so far. Despite heading into the trip at Charlton Athletic with a heavy defeat to their name, the games rolling thick and fast can only be a godsend.
Both losses the U’s have experienced this campaign has been away from home – each posing contrasting tests. Despite that, performances were notably impressive.
“They’ve (games at Oxford and Charlton) confirmed that we’re a good side. I think we’ve gone really competitive against two teams that should, or expect to be, up the top end of the table. We’ve done really well in the majority of the games so that’s encouraging.
“We went into the week knowing how important these away games were and how difficult they would be. Therefore, the Exeter result was so important. When you play against a team that have won so many games, it’s difficult. There was only three teams in the 92 who came from behind in the sweltering heat last weekend and we were one of them.”
This weekend’s hosts approach the match on the back of a devastating 5-1 triumph in midweek. The Head Coach was full of praise for Ben Garner’s side, who will make it a tricky match to navigate.
“We’ve got a chance to prepare ourselves now for a team that have started really well actually. When you look at their opening fixtures, you’d say it’s difficult, but I’m sure the manager will be pleased and they’ll be full of confidence and momentum going into this weekend.
“From the very beginning of the season, you could tell he (Garner) has got a way of playing that he had developed well at Swindon. He’s come in and hit the ground running with that new style of Charlton – they’ve got some really good options in their squad, you can see the strength in depth they’ve got.
Slight adversity doesn’t seem to faze the heads in this United camp. It’s no wonder the ‘confident underdogs’ tag still remains in-date – for optimism levels are still evident around the group. Like they do every game, they’ll arrive with firm belief of grasping maximum points.
“I actually think, to come out of the away games we’ve had with no points is a little bit unjust because I thought the performances were excellent. If you left that game (on Tuesday) at the 60th minute, you would never have guessed it would end like that.
“We know we can go into it thinking we can go and compete because of what we’ve done so far.”
The League One season is a marathon, not a sprint. As soon as the full-time whistle blew on Tuesday evening, the focus was fixed firmly on the tie against the Addicks. The campaign will throw up thrills and spills, but United’s doggedness will always pull through.
“Football is football. You don’t always get what you deserve; sometimes you get results when you don’t deserve them - that’s just the way it goes. You cling onto the confidence of the performance but try not to be kidded on by results.
“There is an obsession with football that it’s about how long you can have the ball for – for me, it’s about how many points we get and we’ve done alright in the last two years doing that.”