Oxford United 1-1 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 19th Mar 2022 17:10
Oxford defender Luke McNally scored an equaliser five minutes into injury time to deny Town victory as the Blues and U’s drew 1-1 at the Kassam Stadium. Town looked to have had the game won via Bersant Celina’s 70th minute opener but deep in injury time McNally headed home from a corner to deny the Blues two vital points.
Skipper Sam Morsy was among the Town subs, one of two changes from last week’s 0-0 home draw with Portsmouth.
Morsy, who had been forced off in the last two matches by a hamstring problem, was replaced in the centre of midfield by Tom Carroll, while Joe Pigott was the central striker with Kayden Jackson having picked up a more serious hamstring injury against Pompey.
Joining Morsy among the subs for the first time under manager Kieran McKenna was young centre-half Elkan Baggott, who was in the 20-man squad last week but without making the final 18, while U23s midfielder Cameron Humphreys made the trip the Kassam Stadium but didn’t make the matchday squad.
Janoi Donacien captained with fellow centre-half Luke Woolfenden making his 100th appearance for the Blues.
Oxford made three changes from the team which won 2-1 at Shrewsbury last week with Sam Long, Ciaron Brown and Billy Bodin in for John Mousinho, Steve Seddon and Nathan Holland, who were all on the bench.
After the two teams had taken a knee, Oxford, who had the wind in their favour, started the stronger, winning an early corner, before the Blues started to see most of the ball.
In the fifth minute, a dangerous Town free-kick from midway inside the Oxford half on the right fell to Woolfenden at the far post but the central defender’s shot was blocked by Long.
Town keeper Christian Walton was forced into his first save of the afternoon two minutes later when Gavin Whyte burst into the area and hit a low shot which the Blues’ number one stopped before Donacien turned the ball behind.
On 12, Town gave the ball away just inside their own half - although Bakinson had looked to have been fouled as he looked for a return ball - and Whyte struck another shot but too close to Walton and without any power.
A minute later, Bersant Celina latched onto Pigott’s flick then crossed from the right only just in front of Conor Chaplin.
Soon afterwards, Burns, who had already been on the end of one or two overzealous challenges, cut inside Ryan Williams and sent in a right-wing cross which home keeper Simon Eastwood palmed behind.
Oxford made heavy weather of clearing the resultant corner but the ball just wouldn’t fall for Town, who were getting on top and looking the more threatening side, although with too many wayward passes in the final third.
The home side might well have gone in front in the 27th minute when Mark Sykes’s strike from the right of the box deflected out to Williams in space to the left but the Australian international shot into the ground and wide when he ought to have done much better.
Town were continuing to see most of the ball but Oxford had another chance in the 34th minute when the ball dropped to Whyte on the edge of the box, however, the Northern Irish international volleyed well wide when it looked another decent opportunity.
Two minutes later, Burns was sent away on the right and cut back towards Celina but a defender was able to turn behind ahead of the Kosovan international.
The Welshman had been Town’s biggest threat throughout the first half and on 39 the ex-Fleetwood man went close to putting the Blues in front.
Burns brought the ball in from the right, exchanged passes with Pigott, then curled an effort with the outside of his right boot which flicked wide off Sykes at the far post. From the corner, Eastwood dropped the ball but was able to claim before a Town player was able to get onto it.
Soon after, Celina shot into the side-netting from the left but having strayed offside with Town looking increasingly dangerous.
But a minute before the whistle, Oxford striker Matty Taylor struck a low effort straight at Walton from the edge of the Town box with no further threat at either end before referee Marc Edwards ended the half.
The Blues had been in control for the most part but with Burns’s shot which was diverted wide their only really clear-cut chance.
Too many final balls or passes as they got into the final third had gone astray, while Oxford had had the half’s better opportunities without having seriously tested Walton.
Three minutes after the restart, with Town now having the wind behind them, Cameron Burgess made a superb cross-field pass for Burns, who did well to reach it and then cut back to Pigott, but the striker’s touch let him down as he looked to turn and the danger was gone.
Seven minutes into the second half, Town boss McKenna swapped Carroll and Pigott for Morsy and Macauley Bonne.
Burns was shown the first yellow card of the afternoon in the 56th minute for a cynical trip on Whyte as Oxford broke following a Blues free-kick.
Town began to put the U’s under pressure with more balls starting to fly across the home side’s box. On 65 Burns hit a well-struck shot from the edge of the box straight at Eastwood.
A minute later, Dominic Thompson crossed from the left and Bonne headed into the ground and into the keeper’s arms.
In the 69th minute, Celina was sent away on the left, the on-loan Dijon man bringing it inside before hitting a shot which Eastwood saved, the loose ball failing to fall kindly for Town and the danger was eventually cleared.
Oxford briefly threatened and perhaps for the first time committed too many men forward and from the subsequent counter-attack Town profited and scored their first goal against the U’s since 1999.
Chaplin’s clever pass sent Burns away on the right as the Blues broke at pace following the Oxford attack and the Welshman cut back to Celina who had held his run, and the Kosovan stroked into the corner of the net to claim his sixth goal of the season before celebrating with the Town support on the far side.
Tyreeq Bakinson wasn’t too far from a second in the 75th minute, the on-loan Bristol City man curling a shot only just wide from the edge of the box after Celina had brought it across the edge of the area, although might well have played in Bonne to his left earlier.
In the 87th minute, goalscorer Celina made way for Sone Aluko with the Blues looking comfortable.
Almost immediately, a loose ball fell to Morsy just inside the area but the midfielder’s shot was blocked by Eastwood. Oxford swapped Whyte for Sam Winnall on 88 as the U’s went looking for an equaliser.
The fourth official’s board indicated five additional minutes during which time Chaplin was fouled by Williams, who was booked.
Town were seeing out the final minutes without a problem - although Bonne was shown a yellow card for delaying a free-kick on halfway - until the final minute of injury time when the U’s won a corner.
With keeper Eastwood having come up, McNally got in front of Burgess to power a header into the corner of the net to level.
There was no time for the gutted Blues to hit back and the fifth game in six between the sides ended in a draw, although this time 1-1 rather than 0-0.
Town looked to have secured their first ever league win at Oxford, the U's having threatened very rarely if at all after the break but were made to pay for failing to defend a set piece, the goal only the second the Blues have conceded in 10 matches.
The win would have brought the Blues to within four points of the top six but they now remain six points away with only seven games left to play and another season of League One football looks increasingly on the cards.
Fourth-placed Plymouth, who beat Accrington 4-0 today, visit Portman Road next Saturday in a match the Blues have to win to stand any chance of maintaining their play-off challenge.
Oxford: Eastwood, McNally, Long, Brown (Holland 84), Sykes, Kane, Brannagan (c), Williams, Bodin (McGuane 68), Whyte (Winnall 88), Taylor. Unused: Stevens, Mousinho, Forde, Seddon.
Town: Walton, Donacien (c), Woolfenden, Burgess, Burns, Bakinson, Carroll (Morsy 52), Thompson, Chaplin, Celina (Aluko 90), Pigott (Bonne 52). Unused: Hladky, Baggott, Penney, Norwood. Referee: Marc Edwards (Tyne and Wear). Att: 11,029 (Town: 1,787).
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