JOSH Ruffels’ journey to 200 Oxford United starts means the milestone will feel extra special.

The left back will bring up his double century if he is named in Karl Robinson’s line-up for tomorrow’s Emirates FA Cup tie at Walsall.

Ruffels has rarely been out of the side since moving to full back in the 2017/18 season, after previously struggling to secure a regular place in midfield.

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But his progression to becoming one of the U’s most consistent performers means his 200th start will be that bit sweeter.

“I was in and out of the team for a few years but now I’ve cemented my place,” he said.

“It’s a proud moment for me.

“It was tough at the start – trying to establish yourself as a player when you’re young is always difficult.

“The main thing for me was trying to be a team player, but standing out at left back has helped me.”

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The 26-year-old is in his seventh season at United, after signing from Coventry City in the summer of 2013.

While he has never been out of the side for a prolonged period of time, the Oxford-born defender was often deployed from the substitutes bench in his first few seasons.

Since the start of 2017/18 alone Ruffels has made 118 appearances and established himself as one of United’s most reliable performers.

Despite this, he insists he is happy to carry out his work in the background.

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He said: “You get players like Ricardinho who got the limelight a bit and you go under the radar at times.

“I don’t really care about stuff like that, you take it with a pinch of salt.

“The fans sing their names, but I’ve had that when I score goals, so you just enjoy it when it comes.”

Ruffels’ spell has already included one promotion season, when the U’s finished second in Sky Bet League Two in 2015/16.

United’s current 15-match unbeaten run has taken them to sixth in Sky Bet League Two and the defender drew comparisons between the two campaigns.

He said: “I don’t want to curse it, but it’s a good start.

“It feels very similar and we’re in every competition.

“It makes it a little bit difficult when you have so many games, so it’s a big month coming up for us.”

U’s goalkeeper Simon Eastwood has witnessed Ruffels’ development since joining the club in 2016 and paid tribute to his teammate.

He said: “He’s made that position his own now and he’s comfortable there.

“To play 200 games is great for him and his family, with it being his hometown club.”