MICHAEL Appleton said Oxford United deserved the break for their equaliser after being denied two penalties during their 1-1 draw at Walsall.

Chris Maguire’s 25-yard strike hit James O’Connor and deflected past stranded goalkeeper Neil Etheridge as the U’s earned a point at the Banks’s Stadium.

But before United equalised they had felt hard done by as referee Darren Handley waved away two strong penalty shouts.

Marvin Johnson looked to be tripped by Franck Moussa on 53 minutes and moments later Isaiah Osbourne went through the back of Canice Carroll at a corner.

Head coach Appleton said: “The first half had almost a pre-season feel to it and the goal sparked the game into life a little bit.

“We would have preferred to have got the first one, but it wasn’t to be and if anything it certainly spurred our lads on to up their performance.

“Our goal was coming and we got a little bit of luck with getting back into the game.

“But we deserved it because we had two absolute stone-wall penalties.”

Appleton added: “He (the referee) was that bad, they (the officials) were all bad and you get fed up with saying it.

“I said to the players, sometimes you’ve just got to try to keep them on side because they are that poor and hope they might give you something later on in the game.”

After a tough week, which included the Checkatrade Trophy final defeat and loss to Fleetwood, Appleton was pleased with the reaction of his side.

Even more so after Andreas Makris had fired Walsall into an early second-half lead.

He said: “I’m delighted with the way we went about the second half, apart from obviously the first couple of minutes.

“But in terms of performance in the second half, you can’t really ask for more, especially away from home.”

Appleton also handed Charlie Raglan a first start since the defeat to Bristol Rovers on March 4 and was impressed with the centre back’s display.

He said: “I thought his concentration was good. He was much more competitive than he was when he came in against Bristol Rovers.

“He can be really happy with his performance, I’m delighted with it.”