Oxford United picked up a point at Wycombe Wanderers this afternoon but it could have been more as they created a host of chances without being able to breach the stubborn Chairboys back line in a terrific game that had everything but the goal.
As always in this non-derby derby, the game was played at an appropriately frantic pace in a fantastic atmosphere with the sell-out away end generating plenty of noise and roaring their team on. It had an instant effect, with the Yellows pouring forward and the play almost exclusively in the Wycombe half for the first 20 minutes. Gavin Whyte was at the centre of much of the play, fresh from his debut goal for Northern Ireland in midweek, while the recalled Jon Obika, replacing Jamie Mackie due to a hip injury, led the line intelligently.
The home side were forced into an early substitution when Anthony Stewart hobbled off but United were then given a scare when Cameron Brannagan, defending a corner, landed awkwardly on his neck and left the field on a stretcher after a nine-minute hold up. Our very best wishes to Cameron who was taken to hospital for checks but was able to phone his dad on the way to reassure him that everything was OK.
It would have been understandable if the U’s lost their early impetus but instead they picked up where they left off and almost found the opener when Curtis Nelson stormed forward and whipped in a left-footed cross that Obika just couldn’t steer on target.
Shandon Baptiste was next to try to put the spark into Adams Park with a magnificent run from half way that saw him power past three rocking Chairboys but place his shot just inches wide of the far post, while Whyte forced a double save out of keeper Ryan Allsop after 34 minutes, one a shot the other a follow-up header.
The best effort though came from Ricky Holmes who ran on to a loose ball after 39 minutes and then cracked a terrific effort goalwards which Allsop only just got a hand to and pushed onto the bar: good football all round.
When Whyte beat three men and drove into the arms of Allsop again a minute later and Baptiste thumped another effort over the bar after some great approach play from the ideal Holmes, United had created five or six genuine goalscoring opportunities while the home side hadn’t mustered a shot on target in the first half until Joe Jacobson’s speculative effort after 55 minutes.
United did everything but score in the first ten minutes of the second half. The superb Nelson and his defensive partner Mousinho both went close, the latter impeded by some wandering Wycombe hands pulling him back as he tried to head goalwards. Holmes had a shot saved, Baptiste blazed over the bar and the U's were thrashing their neighbours 0-0!
Obviously there is a danger when you don't take your chances. It took a superb block by the admirable Nelson to keep out Matt Bloomfield just after the hour and the introduction of Adebayo Akinfenwa always creates mayhem for any defence to cope with. Wycombe certainly grew into the game after his introduction, and the last quarter of the game was much more even.
A spate of handbags and a flurry of cards ramped up the intensity still further for the last ten minutes, during which Fred Onyedinma fired into the side netting for the home side and sub Sam Smith had penalty shouts waved away as tired legs started to come in to play.
This fixture has a history of drama and on this occasion it was a disallowed goal from Akinfenwa that will be the talking point when he powered home a last-minute header from a free kick but was denied by a flag.
No late winner then, but a thoroughly entertaining game with two honest sides giving it their all, given an ovation by their fans, and just one clinical moment absent.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels and Darrell Fisher, stats by Opta