JAMES Roberts still has a future at Oxford United if he takes his chances, says assistant head coach Derek Fazackerley.

The 21-year-old made only his third U’s appearance in 18 months in Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy draw with Brighton & Hove Albion Under 21s.

It is three seasons since Roberts burst on to the scene as a teenager with five goals in eight games.

Injuries and off-field issues have held the striker back since and he is now in the final year of his contract at United.

The lack of game time suggested his days at the club were numbered, but with other forwards in the squad hit by fitness issues, Fazackerley insisted it was not all over for Roberts.

He said: “We’ve said to James all season, you’ve got to keep working and you never know when your opportunity might come along.

“It came along in the first few minutes against Brighton.

“Jon Obika is not 100 per cent fit, so certainly James Roberts at this moment in time will come into the picture.

“We’ve got to make sure he stays focused and continues to get in and around the penalty area and take the chances when they come along.

“If he does that then he’s in there with everybody else.”

Roberts’s chance in midweek came after only eight minutes as a substitute for Agon Mehmeti, who was forced off with a hamstring injury which could mean a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

With fellow forwards Obika and Wes Thomas having struggled to stay fit this season and Kane Hemmings loaned out to Mansfield Town, United’s striking options have been limited at times.

Depending on the length of Mehmeti’s lay-off, they could look into the free agent market for cover, although at this stage of the season it may take players several weeks to reach match fitness.

In that context Roberts may be the preferable option – and having watched the youngster break through in 2014, Fazackerley knows what the youth team graduate is capable of delivering.

He said: “We played a game the other week against an Army XI and he scored five goals.

“You can see he has the ability to score, it’s just getting him into the right areas at the right times.

“If he does that he’s got the opportunity to score, because he’s got the composure to do that.”