MICHAEL Appleton was hugely proud by the way Oxford United stood up to West Bromwich Albion as a dramatic night saw the underdogs knocked out after a penalty shoot-out.
The Premier League side deservedly led 1-0 at the break in the Capital One Cup second round tie, via a Johnny Mullins own goal.
But United, bottom of Sky Bet League Two and without a point to their name, bravely fought back after the break and justifiably levelled on 86 minutes through Danny Hylton.
Junior Brown had chances to put them ahead in extra time, before he was sent off for two bookings.
And in a marathon shoot-out, Jason Davidson struck the winner after Jake Wright’s spot-kick was saved in sudden death.
Appleton felt defeat was harsh on his men, but hailed their performance against top-flight opposition.
He said: “We probably should’ve won it with the chances we had in the game.
“Let’s not beat around the bush, we were the better team.
“I’m proud as well, I can’t be too harsh on them because we’ve gone toe-to-toe with a Premier League team.
“I just thought the way we controlled the second half and extra time was really impressive against a team who certainly wanted to win the game, you could tell that by the team they put out.”
Baggies boss Alan Irvine was relieved to go through and praised the visitors’ efforts.
He said: “In the second half we lost our shape and discipline and started making poor decisions.
“Suddenly we took what was looking like a comfortable game into one which was extremely uncomfortable.
“Oxford deserve lots of credit, they played extremely well and certainly capitalised when we got careless and ragged.”
Goalkeeper Max Crocombe was so close to being the hero in the shoot-out, saving West Brom’s first two penalties and getting close to a couple more.
The 21-year-old was desperately disappointed, but felt the players left the Hawthorns with their heads held high.
He said: “When it got to sudden death it just needed one save and I’m absolutely gutted I couldn’t do it.
“The lads are all gutted, but nonetheless we have surprised ourselves a little bit with our performance against an established Premier League side.”
Match highlights, via Oxford United's Youtube channel
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