OXFORD United laid down a marker at Sunderland which showed they can be a match for anyone this season, according to Rob Dickie.

A visit to the Sky Bet League One title favourites was as tough an opener as Karl Robinson’s men could have been handed.

But they came away with a 1-1 draw, where there was even slight disappointment United had only taken a point.

Dickie was delighted they had delivered in front of a crowd of more than 33,000 on Wearside.

He said: “It’s pleasing for us.

“We’re not going to go to Sunderland and be intimidated.

“We’ll come to these places and try to put our stamp on the game, which I feel like we did.”

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While it upset the odds, the centre back was not surprised at all.

He said: “It’s how I thought it would go, I honestly think we’ve got good players in the squad.

“I’ve seen the standards we’ve set in training.

“Anyone can say that obviously, but I really feel we’ve set a good standard and we’re going to stick to it by training how we play.

“I’m very optimistic about how the season can go for us.”

It was a far cry from 12 months ago, when a similarly testing assignment – against Barnsley – saw the U’s thrashed 4-0 at Oakwell.

It was the start of a four-game losing streak which thrust the side into a long relegation battle.

And Dickie believes memories of last season’s opener played a role on Saturday.

He said: “In a way the Barnsley result might have helped us going into this game, because looking back maybe we were a bit naïve going into the game.

“We were really prepared for it today.

“All the boys are really fit, we had a good game plan and we stuck to it.”

If it was a good start for United generally, Dickie had more reason than most to feel happy about his individual performance.

The defender produced one of his best displays for the club to keep the Black Cats’ big names out.

But the 23-year-old is keeping his feet firmly on the floor.

He said: “I was quite pleased with how I did.

“I just want to make sure my performances are consistent.

“I won’t get carried away with this because it was OK, but I’d like to carry on through the season like that.”

  • FORMER Oxford United head coach Michael Appleton has returned to West Bromwich Albion.

The 43-year-old, who had a temporary role on the first-team coaching staff at the end of last season, has taken over the Baggies’ under-23 side.

It is his first permanent role since leaving Leicester City 13 months ago.