Alex MacDonald rewarded Oxford United's patience with an injury-time equaliser tonight as the U's drew 1-1 with Northampton Town. Trailing to an Ivan Toney free kick, MacDonald swept into the box to drive home his third goal for the club in the 92nd minute to make it five unbeaten for the U's and end Northampton's faint play-off hopes.
As expected, Chris Wilder’s Northampton started fast with the dangerous Toney blasting a shot at goal that Jamie Ashdown somehow got down to push round the post, settling any early nerves for the keeper on his home debut. United then grew into the game and started to move the ball neatly, with recalled midfield duo Josh Ruffels and Michael Collins doing the simple things well and wide men Kemar Roofe and Callum O’Dowda looking to get at their full-backs at every opportunity.
However, it was the visitors who were asking more of the questions; Toney headed two very presentable chances wide of the mark, John Joe O’Toole got his feet muddled when trying to turn a cross home at the near post on 27 and Ashdown needed to claim some dangerous crosses as the U’s were pushed back.
A goal was coming and on 39 it was Toney who grabbed it with a free kick from a central position that took a suspicion of a deflection off the wall and bounced awkwardly right in front of Ashdown, who couldn’t keep it out.
The Yellows couldn’t really argue at being a goal behind at the break but had early opportunities to draw level in a brighter start to the second half. Kyle Vassell was close to reaching a great cross from the impressive Sam Long in the 48th minute and then top scorer Danny Hylton fired into the side-netting as he closed in on Cobblers keeper Shwan Jalal.
The visitors looked sound in defence and the U's found it hard to create chances against their well-drilled back line, despite seeing plenty of the ball. The elusive Roofe looked the most likely source with some eye-catching runs from the right but it was right-back Long who came as close as anyone, twice stealing in at the back post but denied by brave challenges as he looked to apply the finishing touch.
Northampton were content to hit United on the break in the closing stages but as they dropped deeper it gave United more and more and more hope of an equaliser and on 92 it came from birthday boy MacDonald, who picked up the pieces to drive a low shot beyond Jalal after sub James Roberts had bravely challenged the keeper for a bouncing ball.
A deserved point for a patient United side who had stuck to their guns and earned their draw.
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Report by Chris Williams, Pictures Steve Daniels, Stats by OPTA
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