MICHAEL Appleton admitted a weight had been lifted off Oxford United’s shoulders as they avoided an unwanted club record by beating Accrington Stanley 3-1 to claim their first league victory of the season.

Failure to win would have been the first time United had not had tasted success in their opening eight league games of a season and Appleton was thrilled to get a positive result.

United’s head coach said: “If I’m being honest, it’s probably more relief than anything, just to get that monkey off our back.

“I’m delighted and I know the players are delighted, but we genuinely don’t want to stop there.

“We’ve got a little bit of impetus behind us, it is four games unbeaten.”

It was not all plain sailing for the U’s, who went ahead through Danny Hylton, before immediately conceding an equaliser to Marcus Carver.

But a spectacular long-range strike from Michael Collins put them in front and Accrington were quickly reduced to ten men after James Gray lashed out at Johnny Mullins.

It all came in an eventful first half and the result was settled after the break, when Tyrone Barnett seized on a mistake to score.

With the score at 1-1, frustration from the home fans at United’s patient approach boiled over into a smattering of boos, but Appleton was encouraged by the way his players stuck to their task.

“My message at half-time was to drown that out, it’s not about having to cope with people booing and getting a bit cautious, it’s about what we do,” he said.

“The group of people in that dressing room stayed strong, stuck to our beliefs and we came through.”

While it was a big moment for United, it was also a milestone for Barnett, who struck his first goal for the club after signing last week.

The opportunistic effort came shortly after an earlier header had been ruled out.

He said: “Apparently the referee said Junior (Brown) had obstructed one of their players.

“You’ve just got to get on with it, so there was a bit of relief when I knocked one in.

“I’m buzzing to get off the mark.”

The sending off was a key moment, but Mullins was non-plussed by the incident with Gray.

He said: “I didn’t feel anything, but he lashed out apparently.

“I think he and his teammates knew there was no need for it. We hadn’t had an argument, it was just a petulant kick out, but happy days.”

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