Oxford “didn’t get the rub of the green” in defeat to Cobblers, says boss Appleton

Michael Appleton and Chris Wilder before kick-off. Picture by Kirsty Edmonds
Michael Appleton and Chris Wilder before kick-off. Picture by Kirsty Edmonds
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Oxford United manager Michael Appleton was left unimpressed by referee Keith Hill after his side’s 1-0 defeat to Northampton on Tuesday.

Marc Richards’ penalty on the hour-mark saw the Cobblers come away with all three points but Appleton was proud of his side’s performance and felt they deserved more from the game with much of his frustration directed at the officials.

There was a number of contentious decisions, not least the penalty award itself when Johnny Mullins was penalised for handball, while Danny Rose could have been sent off for a reckless challenge on John Lundstram.

“It was a difficult game for the players,” said Appleton afterwards. “To say we didn’t get the rub of the green tonight is a bit of an understatement.

“I was proud of the way we played. It was difficult at times but we got into some fantastic positions but just lacked a little bit of composure in the box.

“It was always going to be a game decided by fine margins and if you lose to fine margins it’s difficult sometimes to be critical but the way we lost the game is tough to take.

“I wasn’t impressed by the referee and I’m not going to try and hide from that.

“It wasn’t a good night for the officials and I think they know that, but we move on and it’s done now.

“I thought we caused them a lot of problems down the side of their centre-halves, especially in the first half, but little things like the yellow card Danny Hylton got – it took the wind out of his sails and he was petrified to make a challenge after that.

“I tried to get the referee to explain his decision and it was something to do with being overly aggressive which is a little bit embarrassing, and it’s little things like that which didn’t help the cause.”

For all Oxford’s tidy build-up play, they seldom tested Cobblers keeper Adam Smith and Appleton rued a lack of composure inside the penalty area but the U’s boss did feel his side had done enough to deserve a clean sheet.

He added: “We kept missing the target. We got in there and got shots off in the box but they were missing the target tonight and with Chris (Maguire) hitting the post, it was one of those evenings.

“I think we deserved a clean sheet on the night because apart from a good header from the edge of the box in the first half and the one mistake where they hit the bar, for a team in their position, I would have been delighted if that would have been the case.”

Oxford are now 12 points adrift of leaders Northampton but Appleton hasn’t given up hope of winning the League Two title, though he did admit it’s a long way back.

He added: “It’s a long way away. Ask me again in four or five games time because there’s another 12 or 15 points to play four in that period.

“If Northampton go on a bit of a run the other way, you never know, but we’ll be looking to bounce back as quickly as we can.

“The players have been great at regrouping this year and we’re delighted with where we are after 30 games and now we’re looking forward to the last third of the season.”