The Tiger era started with a draw if not quite a roar this afternoon as Oxford United picked up a point with a 0-0 draw at Sixfields. New owner Sumrith “Tiger” Thanakarnjanasuth was in the stands to see his new club end a three-game losing streak with a battling display against Northampton, where there were plenty of chances but but no clinical finish to divide the sides.
The first half in particular was extraordinarily open and the remarkable thing was that there were so many chances without either keeper being fully extended. There was some brave defending to block a Chris Long drive as early as the second minute but also a couple of half chances at the other end where Ricardinho dragged an early effort wide and Jon Obika had a header deflected wide for a corner. Long then planted a half volley into the superb away following rather than the vacant net, Todd Kane didn’t catch a 20-yard drive after 16 minutes and then Long made the most glaring miss of them all when he poked a John-Joe O’Toole pass wide of the mark with only* Eastwood to beat.
Ricardinho, relishing his more advanced midfield role on the left, saw a shot kicked off the line at the end of a flowing move but that was matched moments later by Gboly Ariyibi, who got in behind the defence then softly passed the ball into the gloves of the relieved Eastwood. Isaac Buckley-Ricketts then clipped a clever effort off the top of the bar and surely a goal had to come, possibly by hook but not by (Matt) Crooks, who drilled a low effort wide again after half an hour.
Buckley-Ricketts and Kane both went close but somehow we reached the break scoreless, with Long again firing wide when the second half started in similar vein. There was plenty of good football and hard work as the chances piled up but goals are what it's all about; every attack promised the breakthrough - at both ends - but somehow we reached the hour still goalless and you began to wonder if a mistake or a set piece might finally be the crucial factor.
In truth, the second half had been far less open but Eastwood had to make his first real save of the day on 68 as he beat away a Sam Hoskins effort to spark a scramble in the United box that the excellent John Mousinho finally cleared up.
Gino van Kessel and Wes Thomas were given 20 minutes to try and find the way through but it almost came instead from the head of Ricardinho, who just couldn't guide a wicked Kane cross on target after 76 minutes. However, the double change did add urgency and with the ebulient Malachi Napa buzzing around for the last ten minutes as well, there was no way that United were playing for a draw.
Thomas should maybe have won it but clipped a header against the post in the 84th minute from another excellent Mowatt cross but the final stages were all about chasing the win while ensuring that nothing silly happened at the other end, where the Cobblers were content to play on the break.
Sixfields has not been a happy hunting ground, so a point breaks that hoodoo as well as the losing run. United now get a chance to build from that when they welcome Fleetwood Town next Saturday.
A new era. Be part of it.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels and Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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