Appleton still believes Oxford were better than league two champions Cobblers last season

Oxford United boss Michael Appleton
Oxford United boss Michael Appleton

Michael Appleton is seemingly a man who won’t let things lie, and he has again stated his belief that Oxford United were the best team in Sky Bet League Two last season.

With the rivalry between the Cobblers and the Us set to be resumed at the Kassam Stadium in league one on Boxing Day (ko 3pm), Appleton has claimed ‘the stats speak for themselves’ and that his team were a better outfit than Chris Wilder’s last term.

The Us manager pointed to the fact his team scored more goals and conceded fewer than the Cobblers did, and spoke of his footballing ‘philosophy’, implying his team’s style was easier on the eye than Town’s.

And although Appleton had to grudgingly acknowledge Town did accrue the small matter of 13 more points than Oxford, and also that Wilder’s men beat them twice, he failed to mention the fact the Cobblers won five more games, and lost three fewer.

Pretty key stats in their own right.

But the Oxford boss said: “I think the stats speak for themselves and I will never go back on that.

“The only point I made is we scored more (84 to 82), conceded less (41 to 46) and we played better football.

“Everyone has an opinion on styles and philosophies, and I have a certain way of playing and a certain philosophy.

“That doesn’t mean I don’t agree with other styles, everyone has their own way and I have the utmost respect for that.

“We were our own worst enemy and that’s the reason we didn’t win the league.

“There were too many times where we turned winning positions into draws.

“The run and the way Northampton won the league was fantastic and I take my hat off to them.

“The points don’t lie, so the reality is they won the league, but the stats tell us something different.

“I think (with cup runs) we played about a few games more than them, which obviously makes it a bit more difficult.”

There has been plenty of change at Sixfields since last summer of course, with Wilder departed and a new manager in place in Rob Page, and the Cobblers go into Monday’s game on a run of five defeats in six the league.

Town would love a repeat of February’s 1-0 win at the Kassam, but Appleton feels the pressure is on the visitors.

“They were two very hard-fought games last season, we were disappointed with both results and Northampton were delighted,” said the Us boss, whose team is on an eight-match unbeaten run.

“I think our recent results have captured the fact that there’s a willingness not to lose at the minute.

“In that sense, Northampton coming here having only won one of their last six there will be a bit of pressure on them because they’re on a losing run.”

Appleton, speaking to the Oxford Mail, has also accused Town chairman Kelvin Thomas of getting ‘ a few excuses’ in early with his statement earlier this week that Oxford’s playing budget is ‘40 or 50 per cent’ bigger than the Cobblers’.

“I see there are one or two people from their side making a few excuses already, which is quite amusing,” said the former Blackburn and Portsmouth boss.

“We’re looking forward to the game.”