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Michael Appleton was hugely frustrated at the way his Oxford United side failed to heed the warnings about Mansfield Town’s game plan as they went down to a 2-1 defeat.

The below-par visitors looked like they had salvaged something when substitute Danny Hylton equalised from the penalty spot.

But with two minutes of normal time remaining, Adam Murray pounced on a weak clearing header and fired home the winner against his former club.

United struggled to find a rhythm all afternoon against a direct Stags side, which went about the game in exactly the way Appleton had briefed the squad.

The head coach said: “We knew what was coming, so it was nothing that surprised the players.

“Probably concentration is really the only thing that cost us.

“With the second goal we could’ve done better with the first ball, but we’d spoken to the players about dealing with the first and second balls.

“It let us down and we paid the price.”

Appleton limited his post-match comments in the changing room solely to praising the impact of substitutes Hylton, Josh Ruffels and debutant Alex Jakubiak.

The U’s boss’s irritation with the performance boiled over at one stage, lashing out to damage the plastic dugout.

He said: “I’m surprised what happened did happen, but I said I’d pay for it, so I’m sure they’ll be happy about that.

“Sometimes you wish some of the players would probably show just as much frustration and passion as I do at times, but these things happen.”

After drawing level, United had a decision to make in the closing stages.

While some felt the priority should have been on protecting a point, Appleton argued given the state of the game it was worth going for all three.

He said: “The game was there for the winning, so we’re not going to make those type of excuses.

“That’s an easy excuse to make and a couple of players mentioned it coming in, but for me at the end of the day they are beaten once we get that equaliser.

“We need to do better, we had a couple of half chances, but as I said to the players we’re two games in.”

United’s search for reinforcements goes on, but Appleton thought it was unlikely anything would happen before tomorrow night’s game at Morecambe.

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