APPLETON: WE HAD TOO MUCH TO CLAW BACK AFTER SECOND
IF LOSING at Wembley once is painful enough, then spare a thought for last Sunday’s beaten finalists, Oxford United.
A year ago, they lost 3-2 to Barnsley in a thrilling final at the home of football. This season, they battled all the way through again and were red-hot favourites heading into the match against League One’s basement side, Coventry.
But Michael Appleton’s men couldn’t turn the tables, succumbing to a 2-1 defeat in front of a bumper 74,434 crowd.
Gael Bigirimana gave the underdogs an 11th-minute lead and George Thomas rifled home a superb halfvolley from the edge of the box to double the lead ten minutes into the second half.
U’s sub Liam Sercombe pulled one back when he fired a shot through a crowd of players with 15 minutes left and they threw the kitchen sink at Coventry in the closing stages. Sky Blues keeper Lee Burge made a brilliant injury-time save to deny Oxford sub Josh Ruffels and Bigirimana cleared off the line in the ensuing scramble. But it wasn’t to be as the U’s came up just short once again, leaving boss Appleton deeply disappointed. “Games are decided by what happens in both boxes and we gave ourselves a mountain to climb by going two down,” he said. “It’s difficult to take and there’s a real sense of frustration in the dressing room.” It was little surprise that a deflated Oxford lost 3-1 at home to promotionchasing Fleetwood Town in the league on Wednesday, on the back of their Wembley pain. Their chance of earning a play-off place looks to have gone and means the U’s can expect to be in League One again next term. That ensures they will be in the Checkatrade Trophy again next season – providing the competition isn’t scrapped. Maybe it will be third-time lucky…
CONSOLATION: Liam Sercombe scores for Oxford