Oxford United 0-0 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Tuesday, 14th Jan 2020 22:03
Town and Oxford drew 0-0 at the Kassam Stadium in a game in which play was interrupted for 15 minutes in the first half due to monsoon conditions. Once play had resumed the Blues were the better side for the most part but were unable to turn their superiority into goals with James Norwood having a very good shout for a first-half penalty turned down.
Town boss Paul Lambert made one change from Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Accrington with Will Keane replacing Kayden Jackson, who dropped out of the 18 due to a tight hamstring.
In a strong wind and heavy rain, worryingly starting to puddle up in the middle of the pitch before kick-off, the Blues started in the same 3-4-1-2 system they utilised at the weekend.
New loan signing Josh Earl was on the bench, as were Freddie Sears, who was rested at against Accrington, Teddy Bishop, Cole Skuse and Jon Nolan, back after his heel injury.
Oxford made four changes from the team which lost 3-1 at home to Rotherham on Saturday with John Mousinho, Marcus Browne, Matty Taylor and Nathan Holland taking over from Elliott Moore, Cameron Brannagan, Jamie Mackie and Mark Sykes, all of whom were on the bench.
There was a late change of referee with Tom Nield taking over from scheduled official Lee Doughty.
Among those watching were ex-Town assistant manager Terry Connor, now in a similar role alongside Mick McCarthy with the Republic of Ireland, and former caretaker-boss Charlie McParland.
Town, in their home kit but with white socks, kicked with the wind from the start with Oxford keeper Simon Eastwood’s second-minute kick looping back into his own half.
The home side struck the first shot of the game in the seventh minute. Browne was found 30 yards out and brought the ball forward before hitting a shot which hit the stanchion to the left of Will Norris’s goal.
Had the ball gone the other side of the post the goal wouldn’t have been without controversy with referee Nield having inadvertently prevented Emyr Huws from getting on the ball.
Town had their first opportunity a minute late, Gwion Edwards heading down and into the ground to Eastwood from a deep Luke Woolfenden cross from the left.
The rain thankfully started to fall less heavily as the game moved past the 10-minute mark and on 13 Keane knocked back to fellow Irishman Alan Judge, who shot wide from 20 yards.
On 16 Matty Taylor headed a freekick into Norris’s arms, then Keane again knocked down to Judge but his half-volley flew not too far wide.
Two minutes later, the Irishman had another dip from a similar distance after Norwood had found him to the left having made a run behind on the right.
The teams were making the best of the very trying conditions and on 20 Josh Ruffels did well on the left to win the ball and cross to the unmarked Taylor, who looked certain to score until James Wilson dived in to block.
Moments later, referee Nield was called over by the two managers for an ominous-looking conflab about the conditions. However, after a lengthy discussion, also involving both captains, play restarted.
Almost immediately, Judge broke away down the left and sent over a deep cross, which was nodded behind ahead of Edwards.
In the 27th minute, referee Nield picked the ball up and gave it a roll through a puddle in the middle of the field - the worst area of the pitch - before restarting his conversations on the touchline.
A minute later, the Oxford players left the field as the PA announced a five-minute suspension of play for the referee to assess the playing surface with the rain falling significantly less heavily than earlier on and the wind having dropped from the gale in which the game had started.
Town manager Lambert made his way on to the field where the Blues players were keeping themselves warm by passing balls around, while the ground staff forked the pitch.
The Town supporters chanted ‘We’re going to score in a minute’ and Chambers duly obliged by stroking in a low effort from 50 yards and raising his arms in mock celebration.
Ten minutes after the players left the field, the PA announced that they would return for a five-minute warm-up prior to the game continuing.
Fifteen minutes after the game was halted it continued with conditions having improved a great deal during the hiatus.
As the game reached the 45-minute mark, the fourth official and the PA indicated an additional 18 minutes would be played.
Town had the better of the spell after the players’ return with the ball largely in the Oxford half but without a serious chance being created.
In the 11th minute of time added-on Town felt they should have been awarded a penalty when a bouncing ball was played over the top for Norwood and misjudged by Yellows skipper John Mousinho, who appeared to manhandle the striker, sending him to ground.
Much to the annoyance of the Blues players referee Nield waved away their protests - and they looked to have had a strong case for a spot-kick - as a brief scramble came to nothing.
Three minutes later, Norwood had the ball in the net but with a linesman’s flag having already been raised.
Seconds before the whistle, a corner from the right reached Flynn Downes on the edge of the box. The midfielder missed completely with his first swing at the ball, then hit a defender with his second.
The Blues had been the better side during both spells of play, the early torrential period and then the more normal conditions after the teams had returned to the field.
In that latter stage Town were in control of the game but without carving out a chance other than the incident which might well have led to a penalty.
Sam Long blazed a shot over for the home side two minutes after the restart with the U’s - with what was still a strong-ish wind behind them - beginning the period on top, pressing the Blues back in their half.
Some sections of the home support thought their team had gone in front in the 52nd minute when Tariqe Fosu cut in from the left and hit a shot into the side-netting.
Oxford loanee Browne, who was interesting Town before he joined Middlesbrough in the summer, shot straight at Norris in the 55th minute.
The Blues got back on top and two minutes later Norwood again felt he should have been awarded a penalty when Rob Dickie clumsily clattered into the back of him inside the area as a cross came in from the right but again referee Nield wasn’t interested.
Edwards picked up the game’s first yellow card - his ninth of the season with a tenth leading to a two-game ban - for a foul on Alex Gorrin in the 62nd minute, although the Welshman had appeared to win the ball.
From Shandon Baptiste’s freekick, Chambers made a vital header at the far post with Wilson completing the clearance.
On 68 Oxford swapped Holland for Cameron Brannagan, then a minute later, Town switched Norwood for Sears.
Fosu wasted a good opportunity for Oxford in the 70th minute when a poor first touch sent the ball through to Norris after he had been played in on the left and looked to be breaking through on goal.
A minute later Browne was booked for a late challenge on Judge. From the freekick, the ball eventually reached Chambers on the right and his cross fell to Keane but with his back to goal. The striker stabbed back to Wilson and his shot was blocked.
Norris was forced into his first real save of the game in the 77th minute when Ruffels unleashed a powerful strike from distance. However, the keeper got down to his right and pushed the ball to safety.
But the Blues had had most of the half with crosses regularly played into the box but with Eastwood not forced into a save. On 84 Oxford replaced Browne with Marcus Sykes.
Town stepped up the pressure as the match moved into its final couple of minutes, Judge hitting a shot which was deflected wide after Oxford had failed to fully clear a succession of Blues balls into the box.
The Yellows introduced Jamie Mackie for Taylor, prior to Fosu hitting a bouncing shot through to Norris, then the fourth official’s board announcing five additional minutes.
Oxford saw most of the ball in the added time but with Town remaining resolute and looking to break through Sears and Keane. Just before the whistle, a freekick from deep was headed wide at the far post.
Town will feel they had enough of the game to have claimed all three points but never created the chances from which they would have won the game despite having a lot of the ball in the opposition half. The Blues will point to the penalty incidents in both halves, with the first-half claim looking a very good shout.
Oxford forced Norris into the more significant saves and will believe they might have done enough to win.
The draw in what was their game in hand sees the Blues stay third, now two points behind leaders Rotherham and Wycombe ahead of Saturday’s trip to Tranmere, which is in significant doubt due to the Prenton Park pitch being waterlogged and with the weather forecast less than promising.
Oxford: Eastwood, Long, Dickie, Mousinho, Ruffels, Gorrin, Baptiste, Browne (Sykes 84), Holland (Brannagan 68), Taylor (Mackie 89), Fosu. Unused: Stevens, Moore, Kelly, Hall.
Town: Norris, Edwards, Chambers (c), Wilson, Woolfenden, Garbutt, Downes, Huws, Judge, Keane, Norwood (Sears 69). Unused: Holy, Earl, Skuse, Nolan, Dozzell. Referee: Tom Nield (West Yorkshire). Att: 8,191 (Town: 1,319).
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