MICHAEL Appleton believes Oxford United’s victory at Portsmouth could prove to be one of the defining moments of their season.

Debutant Jordan Bowery came off the bench to net the only goal of the game, which saw the visitors have to defend strongly to keep their Sky Bet League Two rivals at bay.

The win was hugely significant on a day where new leaders Northampton Town were the only other winners among the sides which started in the top seven.

United remain third, but with a four-point gap to Bristol Rovers, who are three clear of Appleton’s former side Portsmouth.

The U’s head coach, said: “It’s a massive win – there’s no doubt about it.

“We spoke about defining moments of the season before the game.

“I don’t get too caught up in that, but from a belief point of view it’s massive for the club and the players.

“Portsmouth won’t lose many games here between now and May.

“It doesn’t matter what’s happened before, this is the business end of the season and sides will come here and not get anything at all.”

Appleton was particularly pleased with the way his players kept their heads in the Fratton Park cauldron.

The U’s boss was also relieved given the game was refereed by Neil Swarbrick, who had taken charge of their only away league defeats of the season – at Northampton and Wycombe Wanderers.

“I’m not superstitious, but it wasn’t a good omen,” Appleton said.

“I thought he handled the situation well.

“I know the crowd were getting on to the ref about certain situations, but nine out of ten of them were fouls anyway, so I didn’t know what all the fuss was about.

“We knew the atmosphere was going to be lively and the side that kept their discipline the most was probably going to be the one who came out as victors.”