OXFORD United’s finishing was the main area head coach Michael Appleton was willing to criticise after they lost 2-0 at home to rock bottom Hartlepool United last night.

It was a grim result, with the U’s advantage over the Sky Bet League Two relegation zone cut to six points, as Pools improved their own chances of beating the drop.

The home fans showed their discontent after the full-time whistle, but Appleton remained calm.

The U’s boss insisted he had no regrets over selection or the side’s approach, only wishing they had made the most of their chances.

He said: “I’m certainly not angry with the players, in the slightest.

“I think if you take all the white noise away from it and actually look at the game, I can’t fault their effort or attitude.

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“I can fault their finishing and I can be a little bit critical of our crosses and some of our passes in the final third.”

He added: “We had plenty of opportunities. We’re not blaming anyone else, we’re only blaming ourselves.”

After falling 2-0 behind, when Neil Austin fired home after Ryan Clarke saved Ryan Bird’s penalty, United fans chanted for James Roberts.

When the striker was brought off the bench it was surprisingly Callum O’Dowda who made way.

But Appleton explained: “The boy was absolutely shattered.

“He was shattered at half-time and we were thinking about doing it then. He’s had a big couple of months and he looked tired on Saturday.”

Hartlepool’s penalty was controversial, with United's Johnny Mullins penalised for a handball.

Despite his assistant disagreeing, referee Patrick Miller pointed to the spot.

It was a decision Appleton described as “surprising” and Mullins felt it was harsh.

The defender said: “The linesman said it wasn’t a penalty, but the referee overruled him.”