JACK ROSS is adamant Oxford United’s controversial late equaliser against Sunderland should have not stood because Jerome Sinclair fouled Jimmy Dunne in the build-up to Marcus Browne’s goal.

Browne struck with three minutes left to cancel out Dunne’s first-half header for the Black Cats, but the goal was mired in controversy.

Sinclair appeared to wrestle Dunne to the floor as he broke clear from close to the halfway line, but referee Scott Oldham waved play on, enabling the former Sunderland forward to square for Browne to score.

The goal deprived Sunderland of two much-needed points, and means the Black Cats now trail League One leaders Luton Town by 11 points, with three games in hand.

Ross said: “I think it’s a free-kick, although as I always say, I’ve got the benefit of watching it again.

“It’s not a ridiculously bad decision - it’s not like Jerome has cleaned him out – but it’s probably one of the easier free-kicks to give throughout a game, so not to get it is highly unusual.

“It does affect the game, I’m always loath to use refereeing decisions as an excuse but at that time in the match, how the match was poised, it obviously has an impact on the result which is frustrating and disappointing.

“It’s a free-kick. I still think we could defend it better from then, I think Jack (Baldwin) should stay on his feet rather than committing to Jerome in the box. But it’s very frustrating for us.”

Ross admitted his side were not at their best as they scrapped against committed opposition, and conceded Jon McLaughlin was forced to make three important saves to keep Sunderland in the lead before Browne equalised.

He will not be stewing on today’s game for too long though, with the Black Cats about to embark on a run of three home games in the space of seven days. Sunderland host Blackpool on Tuesday, Accrington Stanley on Friday and Gillingham the following Friday night.

He said: “It’s my job to make sure I pick the players up again. We’ve got a huge seven days from Tuesday, three games at home, it’s massive for us.

“There’s no point disguising that. If we win, we’re in an okay position. If not, we deserve a bit of criticism.

“Any time we don’t win, it’s deemed as not good enough. But the reality is away games are tough, Oxford didn’t make it easy today.

“But the only way the point becomes of any benefit is if you win those home games.  They’re not season-defining, but they are vitally important.”