Oxford boss Karl Robinson has told his players to move on quickly after their Sky Bet League One play-off bid suffered another setback with a 1-0 defeat by struggling Northampton.
Oxford lost 2-0 at home to Blackpool on Saturday and were again off-colour at Sixfields when Sam Hoskins scored the only goal of the game 10 minutes after half-time.
United began well but lost their way and struggled to create anything after going behind as they lost more ground on the top six.
Robinson said: “It wouldn’t have looked pretty for 45 minutes but as dour as it was, from my point of view it was clean and it was what we wanted from the first half – to go in at 0-0.
“We spoke about getting to 60 minutes at 0-0 and we knew they would get in our faces and they would press us but it would have opened up and we would have been able to play late on.
“We’ve seen Northampton play many times and there’s a pattern to them – once they get into a rhythm and you play backwards and square, it becomes very hard to play against.
“That’s the frustrating thing because we played backwards at the start of the second half, we got caught in the press and we couldn’t get back on level terms.
“There should be a blatant handball in the first half, I can’t believe the referee hasn’t seen it, but I’m not going to come out and use external reasons for why we haven’t won because it’s about us moving forward and learning.”
The three points lifted Northampton out of the relegation zone as they claimed a third win from their last four home games.
“The energy and tempo needed to change and we needed to play better,” said manager Jon Brady.
“I spoke about my frustrations after the game and the players were disappointed when they reflected on it but they are the ones who have delivered tonight.
“We give them the ideas and we worked on some patterns on how to play more and it’s just getting them to realise that they are good players.
“We have played very well against teams in and around the play-offs but we need to add that energy and tempo to most games.
“It’s difficult to do it consistently when the games are coming thick and fast but I’m just so pleased we managed it tonight because I was so disappointed after Saturday.
“In the situation we’re in, you have to lift yourself up and bounce back and we talked positively on Monday and I’m glad they showed what they can do.”