United were denied at the death as they drew 1-1 at Morecambe this afternoon. David Connolly's first-half strike looked to have given United another away win but a corner in injury time was touched home by Robbie Threlfall to ensure that it ended all-square at the Globe Arena.
On another difficult surface – the norm in recent weeks – United started well, with the front four of Ryan Williams, Connolly, Alfie Potter
and James Constable showing good movement and switching roles as required. At the back there was a comforting strong early header from Sam Long
on his full debut to calm any nerves, while only a snap-shot from Jack Sampson caused Ryan Clarke
any problems in the first ten minutes.
United had settled quickly and on 13 minutes were ahead. Scott Davies, playing in an unfamiliar left-back role, sprayed a majestic pass to the far flank from where Williams cut inside and won a throw. David Hunt
, restored to right back, threw into the box and Connolly came to life. One touch to control it, then with a man behind him he twisted and turned then drove a low shot at goal. The ball took a deflection but home keeper Barry Roche was beaten and United were in front. Three goals from Connolly: a very astute signing whose goals and experience will be invaluable over the next few weeks.
It might have been 2-0 on 15 as Mullins stole in at the back post and smashed in a volley which Roche did well to push round the post at full stretch but the U's knew the job was far from finished; Morecambe are statistically the most dangerous side in the division when losing, having previously won six times from behind this season.
Potter dragged a 27th-minute shot wide from around the penalty spot; sub Andy Wright headed a decent chance well wide at the other end and it became a game of cat and mouse as Morecambe tried to press Oxford back without committing too many men forward and exposing the back line to United's pace on the counter.
Having lost one of their most potent goal threats when Padraig Amond limped off midway through he first half, Morecambe had a shot from Andrew Fleming fly over the bar two minutes into the second half and a header from the ever-dangerous Kevin Ellison well held by Ryan Clarke
on 58 but otherwise looked to have been held off by the excellent Long and Mullins in a typically resilient second half.
The U's boast the best defensive record in the division and Long and Davies slotted seamlessly in to the back line with well-timed challenges and a fierce determination but having held firm for 90 minutes the four extra minutes cost them the win. Morecambe kept piling men forward and in injury time, and with keeper Roche up, a left-wing corner was touched home by Threlfall in a packed penalty box to make it 1-1.
United stay well placed and have men coming back to add to a side that gave its all.
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Darrell Fisher Stats by OPTA
See Highlights and Reaction in Yellow Player