Oxford United and Plymouth Argyle had to settle for a point apiece at the Kassam Stadium this afternoon as they drew 0-0 in Sky Bet League 2. A game high on commitment but light on chances saw the U's extend their unbeaten run to five games against a determined Plymouth side who maintained their play-off push.
With top scorer Danny Hylton suspended after totting up ten yellow cards, Kemar Roofe switched into a more central role for the U's alongside Patrick Hoban, allowing Callum O'Dowda to return on the left flank after his winner at Bury in the previous game. Roofe has an assured touch and bags of pace and in the opening few minutes had a couple of half chances blocked away by the resolute five-man Plymouth back line. Roofe and Hoban were putting in a real shift for their side to set the tone and tempo from the outset but, as anticipated, it needed a little patience against an Argyle side who were prepared to drop deep and let the U's play in front of them.
They were very dangerous on the break and had a good effort on 34 minutes as the excellent Drew Talbot brushed off three challenges and let fly from 20 yards out, clearing the bar but close enough to cause Ryan Clarke his first moment of anxiety.
Hoban smashed United's best chance of the half over the bar on 38 after Alex MacDonald's tenacity had engineered an opening but it was the visitors who came closest before the break when Reuben Reid flicked a header beyond Clarke but saw it hit the underside of the bar, bounce on the line, hit the left-hand post and somehow bounce clear.
A let-off but United had deserved that little bit of luck and were the dominant side after the break. Hoban flashed a left-footed effort over the bar on 54, MacDonald scooped a clever effort over Luke McCormick but wide of the far post on 58 and, with the back four in their now familiar mean mood, it increasingly became a question of whether they could break down the thin green line in front of them.
James Roberts was given the last quarter of the game, perhaps with thoughts of his spectacular goal at Home Park earlier in the season in mind, and that gave United a little extra impetus for the closing stages but in truth it was a game where disciplined, determined defences were on top.
The visitors, with Reuben Reid's tame effort on 76 their only effort on target all afternoon, had put in an excellent away performance nonetheless and will remain in the play-off places as the season reaches its last ten games, but United had more than matched them and have now gone five games unbeaten just as the pressure was on. A point earned the hard way and the U's move on to another home game against Hartlepool on Tuesday evening.
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Report by Chris Williams, Pictures by Steve Daniels
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