KARL Robinson insisted Oxford United’s 2-1 defeat at AFC Wimbledon does not spell the end of their play-off hopes.

Josh Ruffels put the U’s ahead early in the second half at Plough Lane, but the contest turned in the space of two minutes just after the hour mark.

James Henry was sent off for handling a goalbound effort, with Dons top-scorer Joe Pigott dispatching the resulting penalty.

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And moments later the hosts had the lead, Alex Woodyard’s deflected effort beating Jack Stevens.

United began the evening in Sky Bet League One’s top six for the first time this season, but they finished the night seventh.

The three teams above them each have two games in hand, but Robinson maintains his side can force their way into the picture in their final three matches.

The U’s head coach said: “Every one of my players gave me everything and I’m immensely proud.

“We’re in this, we always knew this would go to the wire.

“72 points is the mark that everyone looks for, 74 is still achievable.

“This team is good enough to do that.

“They can believe they can do something special at the end of the season.”

United would end the campaign on 74 points if they win their remaining games, but they will rue a missed opportunity.

The U’s scored the crucial first goal through Ruffels in an even contest, only to be hit by the quickfire double.

Robinson refused to criticise Henry for the manner of the sending off and thought the better team lost.

“We felt in total control, just one slip of judgement and all of a sudden it’s 2-1,” he said.

“I thought even when we went down to one less man we still outplayed them.”

Both teams had won their last three matches and confidence was high, with both seeking to take the game to the opposition.

It made for an entertaining 90 minutes, but U’s goalkeeper Stevens was frustrated the contest flipped so quickly.

He said: “We’re disappointed to concede again so close to the first one.

“If we could have just seen out that spell, but with ten men it was tough.

“It was a bit like a basketball game at times.

“The second goal’s fallen to them nicely and taken a deflection off Sykesy, which has done me.

“It’s a game of small margins.”