Oxford United capped an excellent week with a well-deserved draw at league leaders Scunthorpe this afternoon. Trailing to a Duane Holmes header,0 the U's fought back superbly and a Phil Edwards goal gave them a point from a thoroughly entertaining 90 minutes.
The sides swapped chances all afternoon, with the tone set in the first five minutes just as mist began to swirl in to Glanford Park. Chris Maguire tried his luck with a clever effort on the turn that flew just over but Tom Hopper might have done better with a clearer chance at the other end, failing to get clean contact on a cross from the Scunthorpe right.
The home side, fresh from five straight wins, were understandably full of confidence and played at a high tempo but United matched that effort and the first 25 minutes saw two good sides largely cancelling each other out until Eastwood needed to make an excellent flying save from a blistering shot from the edge of the box by Josh Morris.
The Iron then started to dominate possession in the period before the break, Kevin van Veen going close with another effort from the edge of the box, although Maguire forced an excellent save from Luke Daniels on 33 with a wicked free kick that made it round the wall and forced the keeper to tip it round the post at full stretch. The corner caused chaos and both Dunkley and Nelson swung at the ball in the Scunthorpe box but with their defence in the opposition area United were caught out by a quick break that gave the home side the lead.
Scunthorpe committed men forward and burst through a couple of stern challenges in midfield – Ledson subsequently booked for one of them - and Eastwood again had to make a good save as Holmes slid in to try and steer the ball home from six yards. However, the ball was only cleared as far as the right flank and when the cross from Morris came back in Holmes, the smallest player on the pitch, was still in the danger area and guided an unchallenged header inside the far post, giving Eastwood no chance.
Unusually, ref Michael Salisbury came out at half time to check visibility with the fog at its worst but United were grateful that he carried on because they were a different proposition after half time and within two minutes were level. Raising the intensity still further, first John Lundstram tested Daniels with a well struck effort from 20 yards before right-back Edwards levelled things 90 seconds into the second half. It was a simple goal, Maguire’s corner picking out the unmarked Edwards to head past Daniels, but United had deserved the goal and the fighting spirit within the side was the one thing to really shine through in the gloom.
A looping header was tipped onto the bar by Daniels on 51 as the Yellows looked to get their noses in front, balanced out by a good save from Eastwood when Charlie Goode tried his luck with an (ahem) goode shot on 59 minutes. Sub Marvin Johnson then powered past his man to set up Hemmings, only for the ball to get stuck behind the striker's feet as he tried to force it home under pressure from a desperate defender.
With visibility improving for the last 20 minutes, Morris should, in truth, have restored the home side's lead but chose instead to plant a free header well wide of the mark after 70 minutes, while Scott Wiseman went considerably closer with a flicked header on 75 that missed the far post by inches.
The Iron hadn't conceded a goal in over 400 minutes before Edwards' effort but were watching and praying as the colossal Dunkley powered a header just wide of their goal on 76 and the U's had done enough to earn their point even if a blast from Jamie Ness had hearts in mouths as it flashed past the left-hand post after 87 minutes. Maguire had a shot saved moments later and then a 25-yard free kick pushed round the post in the last minute, just to emphasise the end-to end way that the whole game had been.
Credit to both sides for putting on such a good game in very trying conditions. Scunthorpe stay top but United will look back on a week where they have won twice at home and then more than matched the best side in the division so far. Encouragement for the future or a pivotal seven days. Let's see....
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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