CHRIS Wilder bemoaned a missed chance for Oxford United to go back to the top of the table as they were beaten 3-2 at home by Plymouth Argyle.
After a flat first half, Plymouth went ahead through Caolan Lavery less than 30 seconds after the restart.
Asa Hall equalised, but the U’s could not build on the breakthrough and instead conceded twice in quick succession to Reuben Reid, before a late own goal from Neal Trotman briefly gave the 10,000-strong crowd hope.
United came off the pitch to find several of their rivals at the top had also dropped points, meaning victory would have sent them back to the summit.
Asa Hall (No 14) is congratulated after equalising
Manager Wilder rued the result and admitted after getting back on level terms he felt there was only going to be one outcome.
He said: “We can’t blame anybody apart from ourselves.
“We’ve missed a good opportunity there to go top and put a little bit of daylight, but we haven’t taken it.
“There will be days when we take it, and there will be more of those than days like today.”
He added: “With half an hour to go I truly believed there was only going to be one winner.
“But (the second) was a disappointing goal to give away and with the third one, we were chasing to try and get ourselves back in the game.”
Ryan Clarke is sent the wrong way as Reuben Reid scores from the penalty spot
The key moment came ten minutes from time, when Dave Kitson handled a cross in the area.
The forward also went on to pick up a tenth booking of the season, triggering a two-game ban which will rule him out of Sunday’s home game with Scunthorpe and the trip to Newport County on New Year’s Day.
Jake Wright had no complaints about the spot-kick decision.
The United captain said: “It was a penalty, but it’s a rubbish one from our point of view.
“We had just got back on top of the game after equalising and were looking good.
“Then Kits was pushed in the back a little bit and put his hand in the air.
‘It’s a penalty we shouldn’t give away and that’s why it’s disappointing for us.”
James Constable heads against the bar
The result was doubly disappointing given it came in front of United’s biggest attendance for almost two years.
Johnny Mullins said: “On Boxing Day, especially with the crowd, we wanted to come and put a good performance in and win.
“I think the second half particularly, I know we scored two goals, but it wasn’t good enough.
“It felt like we were always playing catch-up from the start of the second half.
“We can’t start a second half like that, in any game at any level – you are going to get punished.”