By Tony Leighton

Oxford United striker Tom Craddock will head into Tuesday evening's Johnstone's Paint Trophy Southern Section semi-final against npower League 2 rivals Southend United with his memories - bad as well as good - in the competition spurring him on.

Scoring for Luton Town in a pulsating 3-2 win against Scunthorpe United in the Trophy's 2009 Final at Wembley was the high point for the 26-year-old striker, while the low point came with a sending off against Southend last season.

Now he is aiming to atone for the latter by helping the U's towards what would be a second Wembley appearance in three years for the club after they won the 2010 Blue Square Premier Play-Off Final against York City at the national stadium.

Craddock, who joined Oxford from Luton in August 2010, told football-league.co.uk: "The Trophy Final I played in was a fantastic occasion. There were over 40,000 Luton fans in a crowd of around 55,000 and the atmosphere was incredible.

"It was one of my very best days in football and whenever I see any of my team-mates who played in that game, or Mick Harford who was our manager, we always talk about what was a great day for the club and the fans.

"Unfortunately the club had a 30-point deduction that season and we ended up getting relegated from The Football League, so looking back with that in mind I suppose you could say that winning the Trophy is a bitter-sweet memory for me.

"Not such a good memory is my sending off against Southend in the competition last year. It was my first game of the season after coming back from injury and I did something stupid that got me a straight red card."

Oxford went on to lose that November tie 1-0, while Craddock went on to make only another nine appearances in an injury-hit season that ended with the U's just two places short of reaching the League 2 Play-Offs.

They are currently lying 13th in the table but are only five points below the top seven and the same number of points behind Southend, who are in sixth place, though they have lost their last two league games after 10 without defeat.

The Shrimpers got a creditable 2-2 FA Cup third round draw with League 1 high-flyers Brentford on Saturday, however, while Oxford went down 3-0 at home in the Cup to the Bees' promotion rivals Sheffield United.

But the U's had previously gone unbeaten in 10 league and cup games, and Craddock said: "We're in confident mood at the moment and I feel that we gave a good account of ourselves against a very strong Sheffield United side.

"It was an even game and the difference was that they took their chances, but we certainly came out of it with some credit. We may be out of the FA Cup, but hopefully we can now progress in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and the league."

Craddock has already had some joy out of Southend this season, scoring his first two goals of the campaign in a 2-0 league win back in August. He now has 11 goals to his name, 10 in League 2 and the other one in the Trophy.

Now he is aiming for more goals, more points and more Trophy success as he puts last season's injury set-back further behind him. "I've come out of the other side from my injury problem," said Craddock, "but it was very frustrating last season.

"I had tendinitis in the hamstring, which is not a common problem and it's very tough to shake off. Lots of things didn't work for me as I was trying to get it right, but thankfully I'm okay now and looking forward to the second half of the season.

"We'll be aiming to push for the Play-Offs, and it would also be great to go all the way to Wembley in the Trophy - but we can't look any further ahead than the Southend game, because they're a good team who always give us a hard game."

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