Oxford United picked up a point at the Pirelli Stadium with a 0-0 draw against ten man Burton. The U's dominated the whole 90 minutes but just could not find a finishing touch despite creating a host of chances.
United had started very strongly even before the home side went down to ten. James Henry, obviously, had the first shot of the afternoon with a curling effort after 35 seconds that Bradley Collins tipped away at full stretch and Josh Ruffels followed that with a good effort after eight minutes that was unfortunately too close to the keeper to cause real problems.
Jerome Sinclair, on his debut, showed pace and was always looking to get in behind the defence, and that led directly to United playing against ten men for 78 minutes. Cameron Brannagan clipped a ball forward which Sinclair chased, outpacing John Brayford who reached out an arm and pulled the on-loan Watford man over. A straight red followed and United now had to take advantage of the extra man.
They each did their best: Sinclair blazed over after a precise through ball from Henry in the 14th minute, Nelson couldn’t steer an 18th-minute corner on target when the ball came at him unexpectedly like an off-balance Gemma Collins*, his fellow centre-half Rob Dickie struck a left footer over the bar from similar range on 24 and Graham fired well over on 27 to make it five chances from five different players in 15 one-sided minutes. Henry made it six on 35 with another wayward effort and the ten-man Brewers had ridden their luck, but United hadn’t shown that little bit of composure to make the keeper work more often when chances came along.
Jamie Mackie was given 45 minutes to try and make the breakthrough, Mousinho making way and Henry dropping deeper to take up more of a playmaker role and United picked up where they left off, trying to break down a stubborn Burton backline that refused to yield despite Graham and Whyte constantly trying to get round the sides.
A deflected effort from Whyte sparked a spate of corners, Brannagan volleying a clearance wide from the second, Henry clipped over on 67 minutes, and other than a speculative chip from Liam Boyce on 72 minutes, Burton had few chances to get within striking range of Simon Eastwood's goal (Boyce kicking the keeper in the chest as they converged on a stray back pass doesn't count).
Henry made it 13 shots (it ended up at 22) for the U's (to two for the home side) when Collins spilled a low bouncing ball on 78 and the home keeper then made the best save of the afternoon to push Ruffels' flick from a Mackie shot round the post as we went into the final ten minutes. Henry dragged one wide, a corner was deflected just wide from a desperate defender's knee and United had done just about all they could to break down the Brewers. One last header from Nelson was clawed away by Collins but it just wasn't to be United's day.
A missed opportunity, no doubt, but another precious point on the board and now the U's move on to a mouth-watering home game against Sunderland where your support can help them build on a win over Portsmouth and a draw against Barnsley. See you there.
Report by Chris Williams. Pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
*It’s a Dancing on Ice gag. #TeamWes