‘Completely different team’ – Oxford star shrugs off March drubbing at Bolton

The 29-year-old defender came off the bench at half time in March’s one-sided meeting at the Toughsheet with his side already two goals down.

Nat Ogbeta and Josh-Dacres Cogley had put the Whites ahead before second-half goals from George Thomason, Josh Sheehan and Aaron Collins sealed a comprehensive win live on Sky Sports.

This weekend’s game at Wembley will be a different prospect, says U’s stalwart Long.

He told The Oxford Mail: “It’s a one-off occasion, a one-off shoot-out at Wembley to see who gets promoted.

“They’ll have their own game plan coming into it, and it’s the same here. We’ll work hard this week and iron out a few things we need to, but it’s a completely different team to what played them a couple of months ago. You can see that with the performances we’ve put in, in recent weeks.

“It’s a one-off game, anything can happen, and hopefully we come out on top.”

Head coach Des Buckingham admitted last week that the Bolton defeat “left a scar” but performances picked up thereafter, leaving Oxford as one of the form teams in the division.

Long felt it triggered a reaction from the players who were involved on the night.

He said: “A lot of people probably wrote us off after we played them, especially with it being on TV. It was an embarrassing night for us, and I think a lot of us looked at ourselves in the mirror.

“We knew we had to be better, and credit to everyone in the building, staff and players included.

“We stuck together and got ourselves into a position where we’re potentially 90 minutes away from the Championship.

“That’s full credit to everybody. It was a turning point in our season, and we used that embarrassing night to turn it into a big positive to go on and do what we’ve done.

“We’ve worked really hard to get here. It’s not the easiest way to get promoted, but from friends in the game that have been promoted through the play-offs, they say it’s the best way.

“Hopefully we can do it, and make sure our hard work isn’t wasted.”

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