Ipswich Town 0-0 Oxford United - Match Report
Saturday, 20th Feb 2021 17:07
Town recorded their second goalless draw at Portman Road in five days as they shared the points with Oxford. The Blues had the better chances against the division’s form side with Norwood hitting the post in the second half and Parrott and Bennetts also going close.
Skipper Luke Chambers, Toto Nsiala, James Wilson, Teddy Bishop, Keanan Bennetts, Alan Judge and James Norwood all returned as manager Paul Lambert made seven changes from the team which drew 0-0 at home with Northampton on Tuesday.
Chambers came in at right-back with Luke Matheson dropping to the bench, while at the centre of the defence Toto Nsiala, who had been out since the home defeat to Peterborough in January with a hamstring problem, partnered Wilson, who last featured in the Lincoln match in October before suffering a knee injury. Myles Kenlock continued at left-back with Tomas Holy in goal.
In midfield, Andre Dozzell moved deeper, with Flynn Downes banned for two games for his red card on Tuesday, alongside Bishop, with Judge on the left and Bennetts, who had been out with a groin problem since the Burton match in December, on the right. Norwood was the central striker with Troy Parrott playing just behind him.
There was no place in the 18 for Luke Woolfenden and Mark McGuinness, who have been the regular central defensive partnership of late, or Luke Thomas, who suffered a knock during Tuesday’s match.
Oxford, the division’s form team having been beaten only once in their last 13 in the league going into the match, made six changes from the team which lost 2-0 to Tranmere in the Papa John’s Trophy in midweek.
Prior to kick-off both teams and the officials took a knee in support of Black Lives Matter, before the Blues started the game positively.
In the sixth minute, a Chambers cross from the right reached Norwood, who headed back across goal but without much power and Rob Atkinson cleared off the line.
The Blues continued to see most of the ball against an Oxford side which had made a slow start and on 14 Bennetts struck a low curling effort which visitors’ keeper Jack Stevens claimed at the second attempt. The winger needed treatment after the effort but was OK to carry on.
The U’s managed their first attack in the 17th minute, Mark Sykes sending over a cross from the right and Wilson scuffed his clearance, but well over his own bar.
Following the corner on the right, Cameron Brannagan crossed from the left and the ball was nodded back for Matty Taylor, who headed against Kenlock and over for another flag-kick. From that, the ball was played to Brannagan on the edge of the box and his shot flew well wide.
In the 23rd minute Alex Gorrin fouled Bennetts, who had had a lively opening to the match, midway inside the Oxford half on the Town right, the defender picking up the game’s first yellow card from referee Marc Edwards.
Bennetts rather wasted the free-kick, the on-loan Borussia Mönchengladbach man immediately running into trouble after the ball had been played to him.
Two minutes later, Sykes saw a 25-yard effort deflect behind with Oxford starting to look more of a threat, although still not overly fluent.
In the 28th minute Parrott went close to scoring his first senior goal. Following an Oxford corner, Judged played a ball forward for Norwood to chase down the left and the striker crossed from the left and found Bennetts on the right. The winger tricked his way into space before crossing to Parrott, who turned a shot past the far post and wide.
In the 32nd minute Oxford weren’t too far away when Brandon Barker hit a low cross-shot from the left which ran between Taylor and the post and wide.
Parrott smashed a free-kick into the visitors’ wall from well out in the 35th minute having been fouled with the Blues having some good spells on the ball - and also winning it back quickly after they’d lost it - as well as breaking quickly and potentially dangerously on Oxford following their attacks. However, without having created another serious chance.
Half-time came without that situation changing or the U’s managing to carve out an opening at the other end.
Town had certainly been much better than they were against Northampton, although that wasn’t difficult, but still without threatening on too many occasions.
Parrott’s effort just past the post was the best of the Blues’ opportunities with Norwood’s early header having lacked any power.
Similarly, Oxford had had one or two opportunities but without looking convincing or like a side in their current impressive run of form.
Town began the second half brightly and two minutes after the restart might well have gone in front. From a Dozzell corner, Chambers flicked on to Norwood, who was unable to direct towards goal. The ball fell for Bennetts, who smashed a shot across the face of goal and wide. It was a decent chance and one the winger will feel he should have taken. A minute later, Anthony Forde was booked for a foul on Judge.
The Blues began to put on the pressure and in the 53rd minute Gorrin missed Bishop's ball into the box, allowing to Norwood have an opportunity to stab towards goal on the stretch. The striker beat keeper Stevens but the ball came back off the post.
Town went very close again two minutes later. Bishop crossed from the left and Parrott somehow sent it back across goal and wide when it looked easier to hit the target. The Irishman was left with his head in his hands inside the six-yard box.
On the hour, Dozzell sent over a deep free-kick from midway inside the Oxford half to the left which reached Norwood beyond the far post but the Town number 10 was unable to direct it goalwards.
Oxford made a double change in the 63rd minute when Gorrin and Elliot Lee were replaced by Olamide Shodipo and James Henry, a Town target in Paul Jewell’s time as boss.
A minute later, the U’s created their best chance of the game. Sykes crossed from the right and Taylor headed over when he will feel he should at least have hit the target.
The game was becoming increasingly open and end to end, and on 68 Parrott shot over from a tight angle on the left.
In the 74th minute, Town swapped Bishop, who had had one or two moments without showing the form of early in the season, for Josh Harrop, while the U’s exchanged Taylor for Sam Winnall.
Oxford claimed a penalty in the 80th minute when Winnall went to ground under the attention of Chambers as Barker’s cross came over from the right but referee Edwards wasn’t interested and the appeals were less than convincing.
Town swapped Norwood, who had put in his usual busy shift and will feel he should have scored when he hit the post, and Bennetts, similarly lively until he ran out of steam, for Aaron Drinan and Freddie Sears.
With two scheduled minutes remaining, and with neither side having threatened again, Oxford swapped Barker for Liam Kelly.
A minute later, Holy made his first proper save of the game, the big Czech getting down to his left to bat away Winnall’s shot from the edge of the box. It was a regulation stop that the keeper would have been very disappointed not to have made.
In injury time, the ball was squared to Kelly in space in the area and Harrop slid in to make a terrific block.
Soon after referee Edwards brought to an end a second goalless draw in a few days at Portman Road - and the third in four games between Town and Oxford - but with the Blues significantly better than they had been against Northampton.
Town will feel they did enough to claim all three points with their passing having more of a purpose and at a greater tempo than has usually been the case this season.
Norwood, Parrott and Bennetts likely to feel they should have taken their side's better opportunities, while Taylor will feel he ought to have scored his header for the U’s, who failed to win for only the second time in 11 league matches.
Town last drew back-to-back games at home in September 2016 when they registered stalemates with Aston Villa and Brighton, and 0-0 draws in successive matches in April 2016 at Wolves and against Charlton at Portman Road.
Whether a point, although in itself not a bad one, will improve manager Lambert's situation remains to be seen.
The draw sees Town drop a place to 12th, now six points off the play-offs and 14 off second ahead of Tuesday's trip to the KCOM Stadium to face third-placed Hull City.
Town: Holy, Chambers (c), Nsiala, Wilson, Kenlock, Dozzell, Bishop (Harrop 74), Bennetts (Sears 81), Parrott, Judge, Norwood (Drinan 81). Unused: Cornell, Matheson, Ward, Lankester.
Oxford: Stevens, Ruffels, Moore (c), Gorrin (Shodipo 63), Brannagan, Taylor (Winnall 74), Sykes, Forde, Atkinson, Lee (Henry 63), Barker. Unused: Eastwood, Hall, Grayson, Kelly. Referee: Marc Edwards (Tyne and Wear).
Photo: Matchday Images
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