U's defender adamant key early decision went against Oxford in Cobblers defeat

'We’re not fortunate enough to have VAR at our level either, are we?'

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 2:28 pm
Rob Atkinson. Picture: Getty.
Rob Atkinson. Picture: Getty.

Oxford United defender Rob Atkinson was adamant his side should have been awarded a penalty and had a man advantage after just five minutes of Tuesday's defeat at Northampton.

Atkinson was at the heart of the incident when he met Joe Grayson's corner and headed towards goal, with the ball appearing to strike Ryan Watson high up on the arm before being scooped off the line by goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell.

It is not conclusive from video footage whether or not the ball crossed the line but, even if it didn't, Oxford manager Karl Robinson was bewildered by the lack of a penalty for handball on the goal-line.

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Atkinson was equally frustrated, saying: “I believe it was a goal. I thought I saw it clearly over the line and Joe Grayson who took the corner was in a great position over where the linesman was standing so it was a surprise that the linesman didn’t see it.

"I watched it back and it was deliberate handball on the line as well, so that’s handball, a straight red and a penalty and the game becomes a lot easier if those decisions go our way.

“In defence of the referee I didn’t see the handball either and nobody seemed to complain about it so that’s just football. We’re not fortunate enough to have VAR at our level either, are we?

"We’ve threatened from set-pieces today, but from open play we weren’t as good. Maybe that’s down to the sort of game it was.

"The pitch doesn’t suit our style, but we need to start creating chances if we’re going to win games.”

Oxford were eventually beaten 1-0 after Sam Hoskins struck the game's decisive goal 10 minutes into the second-half.

“We then had 85 minutes to do something about it and put it right after that," Atkinson added.

"But we aren’t creating as many chances as we want to at the moment. Having said that, I actually had loads of chances in the first-half and on another day might have scored a hat-trick before half-time!

"But that’s football. They blocked a couple and defended well. Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Reflecting further on the defeat, Robinson said: “If you’re going into the lions’ den don’t put meat in your pocket because you won’t be walking back out. I felt in the first five minutes we fed their energy.

“This team is hurt, hungry and determined. It’s about having the experience to sniff out these moments to determine what you do moving forward.

“The Swindon game is a prime example. It’s not the same severity, because of who that was, but this is up there.

“This was a real chance to put ourselves near the top six. It’s still all to play for and everybody’s going to beat everybody.”