GARY Waddock ref-used to give up on Oxford United reaching the play-offs, but a 1-0 defeat at Scunthorpe United left them needing a miracle.
With York City and Southend United winning their Easter Monday games, the U’s are five points adrift of the top seven with only two games remaining against Accrington and Northampton.
Matt Sparrow’s 15th-minute strike was the difference, but without another excellent display from goalkeeper Ryan Clarke, the margin of victory could have been worse.
With the exception of a glorious chance fired wide by Alfie Potter just after falling behind, United’s best attacking spell came in second-half stoppage time.
Waddock admitted it was a tall order to get something out of the campaign now and was bitterly disappointed to be on the losing side for the fifth time in his six games in charge.
“It’s still there mathematically, (but) it gets harder and harder because we have only got the two games left,” the head coach said.
“It’s another defeat, which I’m not happy with.
“We had a fantastic chance once they scored with Alfie, and another one at the end with Beano (James Constable).
“I don’t like this feeling, it’s happened too often.”
Waddock was particularly irritated with the visitors’ first-half display, which left them chasing the game.
He said: “You want to give yourselves a platform to build on.
“We’re away from home and have come up against a side on a fantastic run and their confidence is high.
“The goal we conceded was far too easy and that summed up for me how we have been in the back-end of the season – that’s not acceptable.”
Jake Wright felt there were improvements after the break, but acknowledged it was too little, too late.
The United skipper said: “I think the performance in the second half was good.
“We’re not going to give up, but it’s a little bit too late, we should have been like that in the last five or six games.
“If we had done that, I’m sure we would have had a lot more points than we have now.
“We’ve come to a team that’s 28 games unbeaten and they have done that because they work hard, stick together and stick to their game plan.
“In the second half we were a lot better, but we can’t keep giving rubbish goals away and try to get back in the game.”