CHRIS Wilder was loath to criticise a flat performance from Oxford United on Saturday and instead praised the squad’s attitude in difficult circumstances, writes DAVID PRITCHARD.

The U’s were never able to get out of second gear, but there were significant factors in mitigation, most notably the tributes to Mitchell Cole.

Wilder felt given the situation, the squad deserved the benefit of the doubt.

He said: “You always hope they will be nice and lively, but from the off it was a tough day for us. “It’s been a tough week and I think people should cut us a little bit of slack – they’re human beings.

“There was a lot of endeavour, but there wasn’t any energy or flow in our play at all.”

The U’s boss admitted he could spend a couple of hours analysing what went wrong in the display.

But with several players also appearing while not fully fit, he praised their commitment for not taking the easy way out.

“I’ve got no complaints with the result, I’ve got no complaints with the players’ attitude and effort,” Wilder said.

“I could sit here and talk about certain things – about Liam (Davis) and Damian (Batt) chucking themselves back in, about Raynesy (Michael Raynes) not training for two days, Tommy (Craddock) putting his hand up to play.

“I’ve been involved with players at other clubs who wouldn’t have played. “I had to drag Alfie (Potter) off because I knew if he played on for another 25 minutes I might lose him for ten days with his ankle.

“The players put themselves on offer and I’d much rather have that than have players who want to sit in the stands.”

There was some consolation after the game, in the form of encouraging news on injuries to Jon-Paul Pittman (shoulder) and Andy Whing (knee and ankle).

It was feared both may need surgery which could have ruled them out for the rest of the season, but the diagnosis is much brighter.

Wilder said: “We’re hoping JP is four to six weeks, and six weeks with Whingy, which is really good news. There’s a bit of light at the end of the tunnel on that.”