Oxford United 0-0 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Tuesday, 1st Dec 2020 21:07
Town and Oxford played out a dull 0-0 at the Kassam Stadium with the home side coming closest to breaking the deadlock. Blues keeper David Cornell pushed a James Henry cross on to the post in the first half, while Town, who hit their first effort on target in the 90th minute, went nearest to scoring when Jon Nolan shot over on 75.
Armando Dobra was handed his full league debut and Nolan, Aaron Drinan, Jack Lankester and Mark McGuinness returned to the line-up as Blues boss Paul Lambert made five changes from the team which lost 2-0 at home to Charlton on Saturday.
McGuinness joined Luke Woolfenden at the heart of the defence with skipper Luke Chambers at right-back and Stephen Ward on the left. Cornell continued in goal.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell took up his usual deeper role with Lankester and Nolan, back after a groin problem, ahead of him.
Drinan, making his first start since the opening day of the league season, was the central striker with Dobra, who had previously made four league appearances as a sub, on the right and Bennetts on the left.
James Norwood and Toto Nsiala both suffered injuries on Saturday, joining an already lengthy injury list, while Alan Judge and Liam Gibbs dropped to the bench and Brett McGavin was missing from the 18.
Oxford made two changes from the team which lost 2-1 to Swindon at the weekend with Jack Stevens in goal for Simon Eastwood, who was on the bench, while Olamide Shodipo replaced Jordan Obita, who was also among the subs.
After both teams took a knee in support of Black Lives Matter, the game got under way with the Blues wearing their white and light blue away kit for the first time in a competitive fixture and crowd noise broadcast from the PA.
Neither side was able to create an opening in the early stages, but on 14 the Blues worked the ball out of a tight area on the right to Bennetts on the left and the on-loan Borussia Mönchengladbach man struck a speculative shot deep into the stand from distance when he should have played it to Ward overlapping.
In the 18th minute Josh Ruffels hit the home side’s first effort of the evening but straight at Cornell who claimed comfortably.
Three minutes later, the Blues made heavy weather of clearing a Liam Kelly free-kick from not far outside the area, the ball eventually bouncing past the post off a Town player.
From the resultant corner, Elliott Moore reached Kelly’s ball in from the left at the far post but directed his header wide when he looked certain to score.
Unusually for Town, the opposition were having most of the ball with the Blues not being allowed to keep the ball at the back as has become familiar this season.
On 29 home keeper Stevens came out of his box to clear ahead of Drinan, then at the other end Marcus McGuane hit a shot across the face of goal and out for a throw.
Two minutes later, Cornell was forced into his first save of the evening from the same player, the Blues keeper palming an effort from the edge of the area out of play off the retreating Bennetts.
Oxford were beginning to look more and more threatening and in the 38th minute hit the post.
Bennetts initially did well to get in front of his man as a Matty Taylor cross came over from the left but the ball was sent back in from the right by Kelly and home skipper Henry, a Town target during Paul Jewell’s time as boss, headed goalwards with Cornell just getting across to paw it on to the post and it was scrambled away.
Town enjoyed a spell of possession around the home side’s box as half-time approached but Bennetts hit the first defender with his cross.
That was the last action of a half which won’t linger long in the memory. The U’s had the better of it and all of the few chances with Elliott’s header and Henry’s effort not long before half-time the closest to a goal.
Town had been unable hit a shot on target with Stevens in the Oxford goal having shown one or two signs of shakiness when dealing with crosses early in the half.
The second half got under way in the scruffy manner of most of the first with no penalty area action at either end in the opening 10 minutes.
On 56 Henry sent a ball into the area from the right which Woolfenden diverted over. In the aftermath of the corner, Rob Atkinson blasted a shot straight at the Town centre-half, who needed treatment before carrying on.
Town had shown little since the break and it was little surprise when manager Lambert made two changes as the game hit the hour mark, Drinan and Lankester making way for Oli Hawkins and Kayden Jackson as the Blues moved to 4-4-1-1 with the latter playing behind the former.
On 63 a ball from the right reached Shodipo on the left of the box from where he hit a shot which looked goal-bound until Nolan got in the way and deflected it behind.
Following the corner, Henry forced Cornell to palm the ball behind for another flag-kick.
Oxford were continuing to control the game and see most of the ball with Town showing more potential up front following the introduction of Hawkins’s height without actually creating an opportunity. On 72 Obita replaced Shodipo.
Three minutes later, Cornell came off his line quickly to block from Taylor just outside his area, before the Blues broke and created their first serious opening of the match.
Nolan was played into space on the right of the box and hit a shot which flew just over the bar.
In the 79th minute Stevens just about kept the ball out of his net from a Dozzell corner which looped under the bar before eventually being forced away from goal.
Moments later Dobra was swapped for Judge. The Albanian U21 international had had one or two good moments during the game and won a number of free-kicks in dangerous areas. Oxford switched Henry for Sean Clare.
As the game opened up in the closing stages the Blues were looking a little more threatening but still without managing a shot on target.
On 85 Dozzell was shown the game’s first yellow card and his fifth in the league this season for a late tackle on Clare. The midfielder will now miss Saturday’s trip to Plymouth as he serves a one-match ban.
Oxford made a double change as the game moved into its final three minutes with Kelly and Taylor making way for Dan Agyei and John Mousinho.
Woolfenden blocked an Obita shot at one end, then in the final scheduled minute Hawkins headed Town’s first effort on goal into Stevens’s arms.
Soon after, referee Bobby Madley’s whistle confirmed the stalemate with the game having deserved little more.
Oxford always looked the more likelier scorers, although not too much likelier, with the best chances the two headers in the first half.
The U’s always looked in control of the game if not having the capability and confidence to turn that superiority into a victory.
Town’s only decent opportunity was Nolan’s shot over and they have now gone three games without scoring and have netted more than once in their last nine. They are also the first side not to score against Oxford since February 19 league and play-off games ago.
While the continuing lack of penetration is an increasing concern, Cornell can be pleased with his first league clean sheet in a Town shirt.
The draw, both sides’ second of the season in the league, moves the Blues up a place to fifth due to Portsmouth’s 1-0 loss at Blackpool ahead of Saturday’s long trip to Plymouth, who lot 4-0 at home to Rochdale this evening.
Oxford: Stevens, Ruffels, Moore, Gorrin, Taylor (Mousinho 87), Long, Henry (c) (Clare 80), McGuane, Atkinson, Shodipo (Obita 72), Kelly (Agyei 87). Unused: Eastwood, Hall, Forde.
Town: Cornell, Chambers (c), Woolfenden, McGuinness, Ward, Dozzell, Nolan, Lankester (Jackson 60), Bennetts, Drinan (Hawkins 60), Dobra (Judge 79). Unused: Holy, Donacien, Kenlock, Gibbs. Referee: Bobby Madley (West Yorkshire).
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