APPLETON DELIGHT AT TOP SPOT
OXFORD UNITED took over top spot in League Two – and on the run of form they are presently enjoying, it’s hard to see them slipping up.
Danny Hylton’s goal was the difference between two competitive sides at Victoria Park, and it means the Us have lost only one game in 17.
Plymouth’s draw at Dagenham means Michael Appleton’s side lead the table on goal difference.
But they showed plenty of qualities at Victoria Park which will put them in good stead in the coming weeks and months.
In appalling conditions, the Us also had to weather a first-half Pools onslaught as Ronnie Moore’s side played with a real drive and determination.
But some harsh words at the break from Appleton had the desired impact.
The Oxford boss said:“We weren’t at our best, certainly in the first-half. I wasn’t happy at half-time and told them that.
“I felt we were a little bit behind it and at Hartlepool, a difficult place to come, with the crowd right behind them in difficult conditions, you can’t let it happen and be slightly off it.
“We had words and I felt secondhalf we were much better and could have put the game to bed before we did.
“Danny’s finish was very good and Alex MacDonald did very well on the right, he was a bit of a catalyst for us second-half, everything he did was positive.’’
The goal, Hylton’s fifth of the season, came after he was introduced as a substitute on 62 minutes.
From a Pools corner, MacDonald picked up the ball on the right and drove forward, with the home defence unable to contain him.
The winger picked out Hylton with a delightful ball into the area and his finish was crisp across goalkeeper Trevor Carson.
Appleton added:“You have to show character and do the right things at Hartlepool if you want to be successful and we showed that.
“Away from home we have had to dig in at times and we did that for a period, but second-half we were more composed and created chances.’’
Pools had two great chances, first when Jake Gray chested the ball down and volleyed against the crossbar, and then when Mikael Mandron was in on goal, but put his finish too close to keeper Benjamin Buchel.
Boss Ronnie Moore said:“The firsthalf was as good as it’s been since I’ve been here.
“We had half-chances and on another day it goes in, but against top of the league then one lapse and it costs you.
“It comes from our corner, too easy. Put the winger down the line and don’t let him inside and cross and put it where he wants to and Hylton isn’t going to miss from there.
“At 0-0 we had the most important chance, a fantastic opportunity.”
DANNY BOY: Danny Hylton of Oxford United celebrates with Joe Skarz and Pat Hoban after scoringMedia
PASS IT ON: Michael Duckworth spreads the ball