THE growing concerns over Oxford United’s stalling campaign was clearly demonstrated by an angry confrontation between players and supporters after the final whistle on Saturday.
A bizarre own goal in the 89th minute from Matt Bevans gave hosts Dagenham & Redbridge a 1-0 win.
It was cruel on the visitors, but extended a poor run to one victory in nine games as they slipped to within a whisker of dropping out of the top seven for the first time this season.
Tensions escalated as the players headed for the changing rooms and skipper Jake Wright in particular reacted to barbs from a handful of disgruntled supporters.
It was defused relatively quickly, with Andy Whing appearing to calm an ugly situation, although it continued to simmer when the squad returned to warm down.
United head coach Gary Waddock, who praised the supporters for their vocal backing during the game, stressed everyone felt the same way.
He said: “The players are frustrated, the supporters are frustrated and I think it was dealt with in a very professional manner by one of our players.
“Everybody’s frustrated at the moment. The players, the club and the supporters have worked very hard this season to get themselves into a position to be challenging.
“It’s always tense this time of the year when they see that finishing line coming.
“We just need to get over it and if you don’t get a result, frustration occurs.”
The game itself was hard-fought with few moments of genuine quality and neither side could have complained if it had finished goalless.
Waddock felt the performance was a step in the right direction from last Monday’s 3-0 mauling at Southend, but another defeat did nothing to improve his mood.
The new U’s boss, who lost Alfie Potter to a groin injury in the warm-up, thought the manner of the winning goal was typical of a side struggling for confidence.
“Nobody could’ve seen that goal coming and it’ll probably be on a DVD come Christmas time because it was one hell of a goal,” he said.
“The players worked very hard and you feel for them.
“They put in a workmanlike display, there were periods in there that were OK and we have to improve in certain areas.
“It’s only the beginning, we all want to get into the play-offs and win promotion – that’s the aim and it’s never going to change.
“But when things aren’t going your way, like they have done recently, that sums it up to concede a goal like that in the 89th minute.”
Highlights of the 1-0 defeat at Dagenham (via Oxford United's Youtube channel)