ROB Atkinson is desperate to make up for lost time as he helps Oxford United search for that elusive clean sheet.

The centre back returned to the U’s defence against Wigan Athletic on Saturday after sitting on the sidelines for a month with a groin injury.

Atkinson had not featured since he was forced off in the 3-2 win over MK Dons on October 20, but returned to a side still without a Sky Bet League One clean sheet this season.

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That unwanted record appeared to be on its way out at the DW Stadium, until Thelo Aasgaard’s 89th-minute header pulled a goal back for Wigan.

Although United could not quite keep their opponents at bay, Atkinson slotted in seamlessly alongside Elliott Moore at the heart of defence.

The 22-year-old admitted the absence of supporters might have contributed to an assured performance.

He said: “Maybe not having fans there makes that easier, because sometimes it feels like a reserve or youth team game.

“It means there’s no reason not to put yourself out there.

“No disrespect to Wigan, but it was one of the better games to come back to.

“It’s getting easier every game as we develop relationships with each other.

“Hopefully we can cut out those mistakes, which will help with the clean sheets.”

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Atkinson showed similar confidence in the season’s early weeks, despite it being his first in the EFL.

The enforced break meant a full 90 minutes on his return was a tough ask, but the defender insists he will quickly shrug off any rustiness.

“I was feeling it towards the end as I haven’t really played any reserve matches,” he said.

“I was in bits on Sunday morning.

“It’s been such a frustrating injury and it’s good to get back in the team and hopefully I can kick on and stay fit now.

“I want to play every game. I’m too young to moan about my body costing me, so I just need to get my head down.”

The defender will hope to feature against Portsmouth tonight as United visit the division’s highest scorers.

After watching last season’s play-off semi-final first leg at Fratton Park from the bench, Atkinson is raring for a taste of the action.

He said: “Portsmouth are such a big club, when I was younger they were in the Premier League.

“It’s a shame the fans won’t be there, but I’m looking forward to being on the pitch this time.”