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Oxford United dealt hammer blow with key duo out through injury
CHRIS Wilder was proud to see Oxford United shrug off several setbacks to preserve their unbeaten start to the season with a 2-2 draw at Cheltenham Town.
The visitors were hit by a double blow in the build-up to the game, with the news that skipper Jake Wright and striker James Constable will both be out for four to six weeks.
Wright had surgery last week to remove an abscess near his groin, while Constable chipped a bone in his foot at Burton in the previous game.
Deane Smalley only trained once last week and Danny Rose had to pass a fitness test on Friday before he was cleared to play.
The patched-up side also fell behind twice, but each time found a response as Dave Kitson and Johnny Mullins scored to ensure the points were shared.
Wilder acknowledged there were areas which needed work, but felt a draw was a decent result, particularly given the loss of Wright and Constable.
“They have been big hammer blows to us, but we have not gone under, we have got on with it and dug out a result,” he said.
“One thing which they have shown yet again is the pride in the shirt, the determination and the character to not get beat. “That isn’t being negative, we have been behind twice and got back off the canvas twice.”
Both Cheltenham’s goals came from defensive mistakes, but the United manager thought his opposite number Mark Yates was in the same boat.
He said: “I was a bit disappointed with the goals we conceded.
“We pride ourselves on being tight at the back and there was a bit of indecision.
“We had to change the team, which hasn’t helped, but they have not had to work hard for their goals.
“Possibly they would say the same about our goals, so there were four goals where both managers will look at them and see if they could have done better.”
Wilder singled out Kitson for special praise.
The 33-year-old had to play a moreadvanced role due to the injuries, but was a nuisance to Cheltenham’s back four throughout and netted his first U’s goal in the first half.
Wilder said: “I thought Kitson was brilliant, he was absolutely outstanding for the team.
It wasn’t just his goal, it was the way he played.
“Late in the game he was chasing people down in the corner, which just shows what he is all about.
“That boy hasn’t come here just to see another season out and tick another season off in his career.
“He wants to do well and as he said in the week he doesn’t mind who scores as long as we get a result. He has played a massive part in the result.”