Oxford United made it five league games on the road unbeaten as they drew 0-0 at Dagenham this afternoon. On a blustery day there was little to choose between two totally committed teams who gave it their all but couldn't find a winning goal.
An unchanged United side, all in yellow, stuck with the three centre-halves formation of the previous week and looked comfortable throughout the first half hour, the only scare being Ashley Chambers missing from a yard out as superb cross from the left by Ashley Hemmings cut out the entire back line. The U’s created two glorious chances in that half hour, Chey Dunkley steering a header wide at the far post on 20 as United pressed, with Wes Burns forcing keeper Mark Cousins into a good low save as Burns let fly from the edge of the area a minute later.
United were then forced into a change on 34 as James Roberts hobbled off after his hamstring appeared to tighten up. Callum O’Dowda replaced him with a slight switch of shape to move Danny Hylton up front in a lone role with O’Dowda and Burns supporting from wide. The move almost brought the first goal on 38 as Hylton chested down a Wright ball and cut inside the dithering Dagenham defence. He was blocked, but O’Dowda’s follow up was goalbound until it hit the posterior of covering left-back Jack Connors.
There was just time for the ever-dangerous Jamie Cureton to flick a header wide and a Ruffels effort to be blocked at the other end but the first half had been attritional rather than inspirational, perhaps to be expected with the wind whistling across the pitch and making conditions difficult.
O'Dowda's pace and trickery started to cause problems for the home defence as the yellows pushed forward at the start of the second half, Cousins saving from the Kidlington youngster in the 49th minute and Dunkley heading a Meades corner onto the roof of the net on the hour. At the other end Clarke was largely untroubled, Wright making one magnificent challenge to block Cureton on 65 and the back five looking very solid but neither side truly looked like forcing a win as the heavy pitch took its toll on tired legs.
United gambled that the moment of inspiration might come from Will Hoskins, given the final 15 minutes on his return from injury and he showed some neat touches as well as picking up a yellow card as tempers flared, with both sides determined not to let their hard work go unrewarded. The best chance for the Yellows came for Hylton, throwing himself forward to head O'Dowda's cross just over the top after 85 minutes, with Josh Labadie bracketing United's goal with three powerful shots that flew wide at pace for the Daggers.
Plenty of endeavour, every player working hard and a point apiece probably fair.
United now move on to face Southend at the Kassam Stadium next Saturday.
Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Darrell Fisher, Stats by OPTA