Northampton 1 Richards 90+4
A bullish Rob Page took a swipe at Michael Appleton after Marc Richards’s goal deep into stoppage time gave Northampton all three points after a scrappy derby at the Kassam.
Page made reference to the Oxford boss’s comments back in May that Oxford had been the best side in League Two that season despite finishing second to the Cobblers.
“The so-called best team last season lost the game today,” said Page. “We’ve had questions asked of as a group, and of me as the manager, but this shows we’re all in this together.
“With everything that happened last season, with the local rivalry these teams have, we’ve come onto their patch and beaten them 1-0.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to win it late on and the boys thoroughly deserved it, every single one of them.
“We imposed ourselves on them, and didn’t allow them to get a grip on the game and when we had a chance at the end, we took it.”
A largely poor first half saw Oxford’s Chris Maguire spearhead his side’s best passage of play after 35 minutes, dragging a lunging shot wide of Adam Smith’s right post.
After the restart Jon Lundstram denied Alfie Potter with an outstanding sliding block and Paul Anderson slipped and failed to tap in a rebound after Eastwood saved Richards’s goalbound header.
On 79 minutes Gabriel Zakuani imitated Lundstran’s heroics with an outstanding last-ditch block on Maguire.
The winner was as scrappy as the match itself. Taylor’s corner wasn’t cleared by Phil Edwards, and as Beautyman’s mishit volley was fired in Richards, with his back to goal, deftly flicked the ball into the corner.
Appleton refused to criticise his defender for failing to clear, arguing that playing it out had reaped rewards earlier in the season.
“I will never, ever change the way we play like that,” he said. “It’s been successful for the last two and-a-half years. There have been games here when we’ve done the same thing and scored in the last five minutes.
“Perhaps a little lapse in concentration has cost us, but I thought the performance was very good and we dominated the game.
“They had at least one player on their side who should have been sent off at least twice. They were very fortunate and they’ll probably say they’ve done a job on us.
“But fair play to them, they’ve had their day today. But there are still 23 games to go yet.”