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Nervy times for Oxford United's play-off hopes
CHRIS Wilder thought tension had a detrimental impact on Oxford United in Saturday’s goalless draw with Gillingham – but felt hard done by with a late penalty decision which went against his side.
The U’s had the clearer chances to take all three points, but their winless streak was extended to four games by some last-ditch defending from the visitors.
Arguably the game’s defining moment came in second-half stoppage time, when Oli Johnson went down in the penalty area after going past Joe Martin.
Referee David Coote booked Johnson for diving, much to the disbelief of the home supporters.
Wilder admitted when the official blew the whistle, he was sure he was about to point to the spot.
“Definitely, I think we all did – all 7,000-odd fans, coaching staff, manager, everybody,” he said.
“Oli’s done great, dropped his shoulder, gone past him and he’s clear.
“There’s no reason why he’d go down, he’s in the box and has a clear shot on goal.
“Players have to be brave and referees have to be brave as well.
“I’ll apologise if I’ve got it wrong, but I don’t think I have and I don’t think 7,000 home supporters have seen it wrong.”
Despite going another game without a win, the U’s held on to their place in the play-offs, thanks to Crewe being held to a 2-2 draw by relegation-threatened Macclesfield.
Wilder remained upbeat about the result, but thought the context – with Gillingham desperate for a win to keep their season alive – took its toll.
He said: “It could be a bit of tension, but you have to get over that.
“Sometimes you have days like that where you’re not flowing, whether that’s the opposition standing in your way or a bit of tension because of the magnitude of the game, it all adds up.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with our attacking play because I think we’re a lot better than that – we’d seen what we were about against Torquay and Northampton.
“Instead of (playing) easy, little ten-yard balls we were trying to thread the ball through.
“I thought plain and simple we turned the ball over too easily, if we had kept it a little better then I think we’d have posed a lot more problems.
“I think it’s a winning draw, it wasn’t a backs-against-the-wall draw.
“We don’t like to draw games, especially at home, but we’re piling forward at the end looking to win it.”
With three games now remaining, Oxford travel to Plymouth next weekend while Crewe entertain Cheltenham – the teams either side of United – in a key clash.