Oxford United and Ipswich Town were left with a point apiece in a weather-interrupted draw at the Kassam Stadium this evening. An 18-minute delay due to torrential rain meant a late finish but neither of the evenly matched sides could find a goal as they cancelled each other out once the storm slowly abated.
Credit to both teams for even attempting to play decent football in the eye of the gathering storm which left puddles on the pitch, and also an honourable mention to both sets of fans, huddled at the back of the stands and soaked through within seconds of kick off.
Marcus Browne defied the conditions to skim past two men and drill an early attempt just wide before Alan Judge sent three efforts wide of the mark inside a six-minute spell as the Tractor Boys found a way to find traction on the surface, but conditions were deteriorating all the time as the rain drove down and surface water started to appear all over the pitch.
Almost inevitably we then we had a 15-minute delay when the game was held up and ref Tom Nield looked at the conditions in some depth. Literally. In the end the right decision was made after some top work from the groundstaff, a splendid bunch of forkers, although when the game resumed it naturally took a little while to regain its intensity.
Conditions were perhaps part of the ref’s decision making when John Mousinho slid in on James Norwood and seemed to catch man, mud and (faintly) the ball, but 0-0 at the break (18 minutes of added time included) was probably fair and gave everyone a chance to regroup and reset for the second half.
Ipswich had shaded the two disjointed sections of the first 45 minutes but United now had the storm at their back and playing with the tide they were much more on the front foot after the break, with Browne and Nathan Holland starting to drive at the visiting defence and chances starting to appear.
Tariqe Fosu fired a half chance into the side netting, Browne and Man of the Match Sam Long had long-range efforts but a clear opening refused to appear at either end until Josh Ruffels fired in a sweetly timed drive on 76 minutes which keeper Will Norris did well to save to his right, the ball taking a deflection on the way to make the save even better.
There was some sharp work from Simon Eastwood to rush from goal and tackle a Tractor Boy on the hour but as the game wore on it became increasingly apparent how well matched the two teams are. Well drilled, good on the ball and very committed, there wasn't much between them on the night and I suspect there won't be much between them in the final league table.
A point each, a clean sheet and given the weather a good effort all round. Perhaps a missed opportunity to gain ground on the top two, but both teams remain in the play-off places. Long way to go, plenty of games in plenty of conditions. Few though will be like the first 25 minutes tonight!
On we move to Gillingham.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels and Tom Melvin, stats by OPTA