PEP Clotet defended his Oxford United players after they suffered a humiliating 7-0 defeat at home to Sky Bet League One leaders Wigan Athletic.

Will Grigg scored a hat-trick and substitute Max Power scored twice to inflict United's heaviest ever league defeat at home.

It also matched their worst league result, set by a 7-0 mauling at Sunderland in 1998.

Clotet apologised for the result to the home supporters, many of whom left long before the final whistle.

There were plenty of boos at the final whistle from those who stayed, but the United manager resisted the temptation to criticise the players afterwards.

"I can only say it was a very tough day, because the players have worked very hard to put things right," he said.

"We made a few mistakes in the beginning that cost us with the goals.

"That put us on the back foot and then we’re chasing the game against a really good side.

"I think in the second half we started well but then it was very similar - we make a mistake and they punish us. They were very clinical.

"But we can only say we feel hurt because we put a lot of work into that.

"I’ve been there inside with the players and again I will defend them, because they have put a lot of work into it.

"They never put their hands down and fought for their team until the end.

"They knew they were playing a really good team and it was not easy to be out there.

"We can only say that it didn’t go in our favour and we’re sorry for the loyal fans who were here and wanted us to do better."

Skipper John Mousinho was more critical about the torrid afternoon.

He said: "To lose by that margin and in that manner is very tough to take.

"It’s fresh in the memory so it seems at the moment like it’s just about the worst thing that could happen."

He added: "In the first half we made a couple of mistakes and then mistake followed mistake.

"We gave the ball away and they broke on us.

"That was frustrating because it didn’t seem like we learned from anything.

"Being 3-0 down at half-time is difficult.

"We did come out with a bit of positivity in the second half, but obviously there were mistakes again and a combination of being sloppy and them being very good at punishing us meant we found ourselves four, five, six, seven-nil down very quickly.

"We maybe got looser because we were chasing the game and then maybe heads went down.

"I don’t think we gave up but we certainly didn’t give ourselves any credit."