Oxford United may be battling for survival at the wrong end of League One but Jack Ross is taking nothing for granted.
Promotion-chasing Sunderland head to the Kassam Stadium tomorrow (KO 3pm) aiming to build on the 1-0 win over AFC Wimbledon.
Boosted by Will Grigg’s arrival on deadline day, the striker is expected to be named in the squad.
Ross is, however, wary of the threat posed by fourth-bottom Oxford on their home soil, the Us having won seven games at home this season, just one less than Sunderland.
One of the main factors behind their struggles is their inability to win away, Oxford the only team in League One without a win on the road.
“If you look at a couple of their recent home games, they’ve had decent results against Portsmouth and Barnsley, as well [as the game at Sunderland] you can see they’re a good side,” said Ross.
“It’s up to us to perform on the day and be consistent each and every game.
“We speak all the time about away games and how us going often results in the home teams biggest crowd of the season, I gather that will be the case again Saturday. That all adds to the occasion and the challenge.
“They were impressive when we played them earlier in the season. It made it difficult that we were a man short for large parts of it, but we know we have to be good to get anything on Saturday.
“I think away games have felt like cup finals this season and in terms of tactics there is always going to be a different approach depending on which team we’re playing.
“We mentioned the size of the crowds and, of course, our travelling fans that we always take with us and then the game itself is played in that kind of cup final pace and tempo and that’s why games have been a real challenge for us.
“We’ve came through a lot of them very well. I think every away game we play will be exactly the same.”
Sunderland have a busy February with five more games - including two midweek fixtures - to squeeze in. Ross was welcome of a midweek breather in the run-up to Oxford. He added: “What it does is allow you to train a lot more and at a higher intensity. But we do know we’re approaching a period where that is going to dip again so we won’t be able have as much time.”