OXFORD United’s players have to wake up to the stark consequences which would follow if they are relegated this season, urged John Mousinho.

The skipper fired the warning shot after an infuriatingly inconsistent few days, which he hopes the squad stew on during a short break.

United climbed out of the Sky Bet League One relegation zone with a 2-1 win over leaders Portsmouth on Saturday.

But they followed it up with a woeful 5-2 defeat at League Two side Bury in the Checkatrade Trophy quarter-final.

A grim night was compounded by the news Karl Robinson’s side had slipped back into the bottom four, as Plymouth Argyle beat Walsall.

The cup exit leaves United with 18 games to survive in League One.

Mousinho, an unused substitute at Bury, experienced relegation from the third tier with Wycombe Wanderers in 2010.

And the U’s captain did not pull any punches about the severity of their situation.

He said: “I saw the performance we put in on Saturday against the team at the top and it’s laughable we’re down there.

“Then you see the Bury game and it’s a reminder of where we are.

“I’ve been loathe all season to talk about it, because we were in the mire for the early part and got ourselves out of it.

“But we’re back in it and you’ve got to talk about it now – that’s the reality of it.

“I’ve been a young player in dressing rooms where you don’t realise the gravity of relegation and what it does to you.”

He added: “Managers look at players who have been relegated and think ‘he’s not for me’.

“Staff will lose their jobs, that’s the worst thing about it.

“Players think it will be alright (but) I’ve been there and had the experience.

“The most difficult thing is being a young lad and listening to someone who is older and thinking ‘come on old man, give it a rest’. But it’s true.

“It won’t be for me or Jamie Mackie or James Henry to tell them it’s life-changing, they’ve got to somehow figure it out for themselves.

“We can try to help them along, but the quicker they do the quicker we’ll stop putting in performances like that and put in performances like we did against Portsmouth.”

With no fixture until high-flying Barnsley visit in the league next Tuesday, the players have four days off to recharge their batteries.

It offers the coaching staff time to chase striker targets ahead of next Thursday’s transfer deadline.

But given the debacle at Bury, Mousinho believes it should be a difficult period for the players.

He said: “It’s a horrible time for the players to stew on it after the highs of Saturday.

“We’re out of the cup. To come this far and throw it away with a performance like that is a travesty.

“I hope everyone does stew on it for four days and don’t enjoy themselves.”