Appleton Proud Of Fightback
Michael Appleton was a relieved man after James Roberts' late equaliser rescued a point for Oxford in a 2-2 draw with Exeter.
The Grecians looked to be heading for victory when Alex Nichols looped in a header from close range in the 87th minute to put them 2-1 in front.
The Oxford fans were furious that their team had blown an early lead at home again. The U's had lost 3-2 to 10-man Southend at the Kassam Stadium last Saturday after being in front at the break.
However, two minutes into injury-time substitute Roberts worked space for himself on the edge of the area and superbly curled a left-foot shot in off the post to make it 2-2.
After the breathless finish, Appleton said: “I'm delighted Roberts got a goal for us, and he's been making a habit of it to be fair.
“I suppose it's one of those draws that actually feels like a victory because of the way we came back.
“I'm really, really proud of the players, especially with the amount of young players we had in the squad.
“To come back as late as we did was very satisfying.
“I'm obviously disappointed with the goals we conceded, but we had the strength of character to come back.
“The second goal we conceded was poor, but the reaction to it from the players was wonderful.
“They weren't opening us up, and they didn't really test our keeper more than two or three times in the whole game, so it was just a question whether losses of concentration would cost us.
“And at least James Roberts had the composure to get in there and finish the way he did.”
Before the late drama, Oxford had taken the lead in the 18th minute when leading scorer Danny Hylton volleyed home from 10 yards from Callum O'Dowda's driven left-wing cross for his 14th goal of the season.
But Exeter levelled in the 37th minute through Arron Davies, who took Graham Cummins' knock-down and volleyed past goalkeeper Ryan Clarke from 16 yards out.
Grecians boss Paul Tisdale admitted disappointment at shipping such a late goal, but felt a point apiece was probably a fair result.
The two sides had also drawn in the reverse fixture at St James's Park earlier in the season – it was 1-1 that day.
Tisdale said: “I thought a draw was probably fair. Obviously I'm disappointed with the late goal but it was a fair outcome in the end.
“The first half was a struggle but we held in there and the players held their shape. And at half time we knew exactly what we had to do.
“We had done okay in the first half. Sometimes it's about getting in a position where you can affect the result, even though you're up against it. Even though they had a lot of the ball, we had done okay. It wasn't that they we were desperately hanging on. In that respect, it was a sensible performance from us.
“We were solid throughout, and we restricted them to very few chances.
“There's a long way to go in the season so we'll just try to stay in the hunt.”