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Oxford United 2-1 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 21st Jan 2023 17:08

Town were left rueing missed chances as they lost further ground in the promotion battle following a 2-1 defeat in thick fog at Oxford United. Yanic Wildschut gave the U’s the lead in the 34th minute before Leif Davis headed the Blues level four minutes later with his first career goal, however, Cameron Brannagan won the game for the home side with seven minutes left on the clock with a low strike from outside the area.

George Hirst was handed his full Town debut, while the three other January signings Harry Clarke, Nathan Broadhead and Massimo Luongo were all among the subs.

Hirst came in as the central striker with Freddie Ladapo dropping to the bench with the rest of the XI unchanged from last week’s 1-1 draw with leaders Plymouth.

Sone Aluko was back on a much-changed bench with Kane Vincent-Young, Cameron Humphreys, Richard Keogh and Kyle Edwards dropping out of last week’s 18. George Edmundson, Greg Leigh and Gassan Ahadme also missed out on a place in the matchday squad.

In cold conditions and a thickening fog, Blues keeper Christian Walton was first called into action in the fifth minute when he rushed off his line to clear a Sam Long ball down the middle for Wildschut to chase.

The home side were having the better of the early stages and in the seventh minute, the Blues initially failed to clear their lines with the ball flashing across their area before it was looped back in from the right and Walton claimed under his bar at the far post.

Despite still not having got going, the Blues forced the game’s first real save in the 12th minute. A cleverly-worked corner on the left was played to Lee Evans on the edge of the box from where the Welshman struck a low drive but straight at Oxford keeper Simon Eastwood’s chest and the loose ball was cleared.

In the 17th minute, Conor Chaplin won the ball midway inside the Oxford half and brought it forward to the edge of the area before playing a pass into the path of Hirst’s run, however, Long had read it and got in front of the Blues striker.

Oxford were continuing to have the better of it with Town unable to break out of their own half, giving the ball away too easily, but while preventing the U’s from creating a clear-cut chance.

However, on 24, the Blues went very close to going in front. Wes Burns was sent away on the right and exchanged passes with Sam Morsy as he looked to get in behind his defender. The ball ran loose to Marcus Harness, who struck a snap shot which flew only just over Eastwood’s cross bar. It was a decent chance and one the former Pompey man will feel he should have taken.

With the fog getting ever denser, the white ball was swapped for a luminous one, then in the 28th minute Cameron Burgess flicked a header into Eastwood’s arms from a Morsy cross following a Town corner.

The Blues were getting on top and a minute later they should have scored. Chaplin played a great ball into the path of Burns on the right and the Wales international took it on into the box and burst between two defenders before hitting a shot which beat the advancing Eastwood but scuffed the top of the bar on its way over.

Like Harness, Burns will feel he should have scored, while Hirst made no secret of the fact that he’d liked the ball cut across to him on the edge of the six-yard box.

Town threatened again on 33, Davis crossing from the left and Chaplin flicking a header goalwards.

The Blues had got on top and had started to take control but a minute later, the U’s took the lead.

Wildschut somehow managed to battle his way through challenges by Donacien and Luke Woolfenden on the edge of the area, took the ball on into the box and past Burgess before slipping it past Walton.

But the Oxford lead wouldn’t last long. Four minutes later, Town built slowly from the back and Harness wafted a ball from the edge of the area on the right to the far post where Davis nodded his first senior goal across Eastwood and into the corner of the net. The left-back, who said recently that once he scored his first goal more would follow, was mobbed by his teammates.

Billy Bodin curled a free-kick over for the U’s on 43 with the Blues ending the half on the front foot, Hirst just failing to find Burns with a pass into his path down the right.

The scoreline wasn’t an unfair reflection of a half in which Town had badly struggled to get going and had never been at their best.

However, they had got on top prior to Oxford’s goal and had had two very good chances to go in front which Harness and Burns would have been rueing when Wildschut, who previously scored against the Blues in fog for Wigan in 2016, was allowed to break into the area and score.

Harness went some way to making amends for his miss by creating Davis’s goal, which the full-back took like a player accustomed to nodding in equalisers at the far post.

The players returned for the second half with the fog having got thicker but with referee Bobby Madden seeming unperturbed. It was difficult to make out the ball across the pitch and Oxford fans behind the goal can have had little idea of what was happening at the other end.

Town forced the first save of the half in the 50th minute when Harness fed Hirst, who hit a low shot at Eastwood’s near post from the right of the box which the keeper saved and gathered at the second attempt.

A minute later, referee Madden made his way to the sidelines to speak to both managers before continuing with the game with the fog subsequently becoming slightly less impenetrable.

Town were looking a little more controlled than in the first half and in the 58th minute Burns volleyed high over the bar from an angle on the left after a Davis free-kick had been nodded back across goal. The ball was coming over the wideman’s shoulder and was a far from easy opportunity to take.

New Blues signing Hirst should have opened his account as the game reached the hour mark. Burns cut back from the right and the on-loan Leicester man looked to have hit his low first-time shot into the net only for it to pass the wrong side of Eastwood’s left post. Hirst was clearly frustrated at not taking the chance.

Town were almost made to pay for the miss in the 63rd minute when the ball ran loose in the area from an Oxford corner but was forced behind again. From the resultant flag-kick, Bodin shot over from distance.

The Blues made a double change a minute later, Broadhead, making his Blues debut, and Ladapo taking over from Harness and Hirst. Oxford swapped goalscorer Wildschut for Kyle Joseph and Marcus McGuane for Matty Taylor with the fog again having got thicker.

Town had another great chance to go in front in the 73rd minute when Burns laid the ball back to Evans, who crossed and Chaplin headed across goal and wide from six yards when again he will feel he should have scored.

With the ball now impossible to see on the far side of the field, and Davis receiving treatment, referee Madden again went to the touchline to speak to the two managers before returning and talking to both captains.

Players of both teams appeared to start to leave the field before further conversations, including one between Town captain Morsy and Oxford boss Karl Robinson, before the game continued.

A long throw into the Town box threatened to cause problems until being kicked well clear with Walton dealing with a later ball into the area.

Moments later, as the match moved into its final 10 minutes, a Town player looked to be booked for a foul midway inside the Blues half but it was impossible to see who. From the free-kick, the ball was sent towards goal and Walton claimed.

But, after Oxford had introduced subs Tyler Goodrham and Gatlin O'Donkor for Djavan Anderson and Bodin, the U’s went back in front.

A cross from the right was cleared to Brannagan 25 yards out and the midfielder struck a low shot past Walton, who may well have seen it late due to the conditions, and into the corner of the net to send the home fans wild.

Ladapo hit a shot from the edge of the area too close to Eastwood from Broadhead’s pass from the left on 86, before Town made a triple change, debutant Harry Clarke, Kayden Jackson and Aluko replacing Donacien, Chaplin and Burns.

Clarke almost marked his debut for his hometown club with an 89th-minute goal, his header from a right-sided corner going into the ground and up onto the bar before falling loose in the area. Broadhead’s effort was blocked, then eventually Eastwood was able to pounce on it, much to the relief of his teammates.

The game went into seven minutes of injury time with the conditions remaining the same and with Oxford looking more likely to score a third goal than the Blues an equaliser.

Town were unable to threaten further in injury time and another frustrating afternoon at Oxford was brought to an end, the Blues still never having won away against the U’s in their history.

Despite never being at their best in a scruffy game in difficult conditions, Town will regret failing to take four very good chances, two in each half, not including Clarke's header against the bar, while the first U’s goal was another which was very preventable.

The defeat means the Blues remain third now seven points behind second-placed Sheffield Wednesday and 10 from leaders Plymouth with Morecambe - their game in hand on the Pilgrims - at Portman Road on Tuesday.

Oxford: Eastwood, Long, Moore (c), Brown, Fleming, Bate (Findlay 89), McGuane (Taylor 65), Brannagan, Anderson (Goodrham 83), Wildschut (Joseph 65), Bodin (O’Donkor 83). Unused: Plumley, Negru.

Town: Walton, Donacien (Clarke 85), Woolfenden, Burgess, Burns (Jackson 85), Morsy (c), Evans, Davis, Chaplin (Aluko 85), Harness (Broadhead 64), Hirst (Ladapo 64). Unused: Hladky, Luongo. Referee: Bobby Madden (Cumbria). Att: 9,830 (Town: 1,491).

Photo: Pagepix

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FrankMarshall added 17:09 - Jan 21
Oh well. Onto the next one.

AYACCA added 17:10 - Jan 21
Paid a tenner to see pretty much nothing....I haven't the foggiest if we'll catch the top 2 now...

midastouch added 17:10 - Jan 21
E I E I E I O, Down The Football League We Go
Now 17th in the form table!
Need a win badly on Tuesday against an in form Morecambe.

JimmyP45 added 17:11 - Jan 21
Sadly it seems we are destined for the playoffs as our form has gone from bad to worse and the two teams above us win every week. A big shame unless we are pretty much perfect for the remaining 19 games.

TimmyH added 17:13 - Jan 21
Without sounding like my needles stuck, another game not clinical enough and not defending well enough. That's W2 D4 L2 from the last 8 games which is bog standard form!

Starting to get the whiff of the 2014/15 season under McCarthy but at a level lower where we scraped into the play-offs thanks to an other game going our way...signs are not looking good.

Help added 17:13 - Jan 21
The subs do not make us stronger. The performance was disappointing at best. Poor decision making by both manager and players. Need a plan b as plan a had been worked out by the opposition two strikers scare our back 3. Midfield overrun.

johnwarksshorts added 17:14 - Jan 21
Not a good day. Now games are becoming must win, so pressure is on. Top 2 pulling away and others below us catching up. Town are so frustrating to watch. I still have faith but must win next 2 then beat Wednesday to have Any chance of getting back closer to top 2, but I'm being really optimistic.

blueboy1981 added 17:14 - Jan 21
Sadly Overrated - and Sussed Out !!
It becomes easier with every game for the opposition !!
Enough said - Results and Points tell the True Story !!

ringwoodblue added 17:15 - Jan 21
Cmon everyone! Let's look at the positives. Davis got his first goal for us, we didn't concede a lead in injury time this week and at this rate, at least we won't have to suffer the lottery of the playoffs as we'll finish just outside them. {Joke}

surgery added 17:15 - Jan 21
Everyone involved in that embarrassing result from he who can do no wrong down to his squad of vastly expensive superstars should hang their heads in shame

BcarefulwhatUWish4 added 17:15 - Jan 21
Not even angry. Was hopeful that we would make a good effort to be in the top two. Looks decidedly likely that we will end up in the play-offs.

Dropped off the pace massively the last few weeks. They've given us hope this season, which was a positive.

DavoIPB added 17:16 - Jan 21
Poor all round. No cohesion in the team, most players seemed rushed. Only broadhurst looked any good. Nobody seemed to know what they were supposed to be doing.

Mariner1974 added 17:16 - Jan 21
I'm curious if McKenna was actually given the chance to stop the game at 75 mins. I'd have taken that at 1-1. Call the game off and play them in decent conditions when we can see what we're doing and play football the way we like to play it. Of course we're always gonna struggle in winter games as we like the ball on the ground on a decent pitch, where we can pass, be creative and show our footballing prowess. Whether it's freezing fog in Oxford or gusts and winds in Accrington, it's just not our bag. We know that. We're a football team, not a team that can tough it out like today. We were on top, but Oxford just played for freekicks and corners. Whether Walton was unsighted our not for their goal. I know I was watching it on TV! I love McKenna, but think if he had the chance to call the game off he should have taken it, and don't think he took the right bench with him today. Naive I feel. This is a team we beat 2-3 weeks ago 3-0. They're gonna change their tactics to harass us and try and stop us playing football. There will be a few others like this before we get to March. Glad I'm going on holiday in Feb....

Tractorboy58 added 17:16 - Jan 21
I wonder if the new players coming in have rocked the boat

itfckenty added 17:16 - Jan 21
They need to go away and rethink alot of things. Such a shame that they could give away such good form. Everyone is thinking the same thing and at the moment we will be lucky to get into the playoffs with this current form

inghamspur added 17:17 - Jan 21
Heading for the play offs I'm afraid, too many points dropped now.

Pezzer added 17:17 - Jan 21
Weds seem to win 1-0 regularly, we cannot keep a clean sheet so even though we score most games we don't see games out. Walton and our defence are not good enough for a top two team.

Cakeman added 17:17 - Jan 21
Off par performance coupled with a bizarre team selection resulted in the inevitable. Oxford are a good team but we don't know how to adapt to playing good teams such as Oxford on their own patch.
On paper we are head and shoulders above the rest. Playing on grass is a different matter. Hopefully this last few games is our bad spell but I fear unless our manager picks and sticks to what he believes to be our strongest starting eleven we shall splutter and stall to just about hold on to a play off spot.
Negative yes but the top Two positions are out of reach. I do not see Sheff Weds or Derby slipping up. Plymouth will maybe hang on in the top Three.

barrystedmunds added 17:17 - Jan 21
The slump continues, and it is a slump. Top two pulling away and all below us are improving. Worrying times with little signs of things getting better any time soon. Wednesday playing Argyle now has little impact for us whatever the result. Another sh@&e Saturday evening!

Ipswichbusiness added 17:17 - Jan 21
Not good enough.

We are slip sliding away.

Much more of this, we will be lucky to hang onto a play-off place.

Derby, Bolton and Barnsley are all looking strong, we aren't.

KMcBlue added 17:18 - Jan 21
Bringing off strong players like Chaplin and Hirst and bringing on weak ones like Lacr*po and Jackson didn't help.

ernie added 17:18 - Jan 21
Bloated squad. Too much rotation. Players left out. Smaller squads with better unity always get promotion from the lower leagues.

Northstandveteran added 17:20 - Jan 21
🎶 Play off trophy still gleaming, twenty years of hurt, I've given up dreaming, cart horse on our shirt🎶

carsey added 17:20 - Jan 21
Lovely to watch, easy to defend. KMcK has to come up with a real alternative because Town have been found out. Our strikers have to start scoring and defenders defending. Right now I'll sacrifice attractive for anything that gets us a win.

Gforce added 17:20 - Jan 21
Three wins in eleven simply not good enough,way too inconsistent to finish in the top two.How on earth are Plymouth with a budget way smaller than ours,ten points clear of us.
Sorry but all I can see now,is another year in this terrible league,not a chance of us winning the play off's,we bottle games way too often.
Yet another Saturday night ruined,think I need a beer or 2.

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