Oxford United and Ipswich Town had to settle for a point apiece this afternoon as defences won the day in a 0-0 draw at Portman Road.
In a 90 minutes high on commitment and determination neither side could find a route to goal with chances very much at a premium throughout.
United, all in white, defended well but relied on Rob Atkinson to hook a soft header off the line from James Norwood in the early exchanges, the defender resisting the urge to charge the length of the pitch with the ball and happy to just hook clear as an Ipswich team showing plenty of changes to the one that drew against Northampton in the previous game applied decent early pressure.
Jack Stevens made a comfortable save from Keanan Bennetts before the U’s started to gain some of their usual rhythm, although the first 45 minutes never really got going for either side.
The excellent Cameron Brannagan fired a couple of shots at goal from distance without disturbing keeper Thomas Holy’s day of rest and Mark Sykes saw a 25-yard-drive deflected wide for a corner but the clearest chance of the first half belonged to the home side, when the lively Troy Parrott found space in a crowded area after half an hour but trilled his effort wide without making Stevens work.
The home side came at the U's after the break and a Norwood effort hit the post and Bennetts stabbed another decent chance wide, although those chances were balanced by a Taylor header from a Sykes cross that flicked the top of the bar and a drive from sub James Henry which also flew over the bar as we reached the hour mark.
Games between the sides have always been tight - just one goal in four games now since Ipswich dropped into League 1 - and as the game wore on it was increasingly a case of who would be brave enough to go for three points rather than settle for one.
United had plenty of possession, with Brannagan playing a quarterback role in front of the defence, ably assisted by Henry as they probed for weaknesses in a seemingly unbreakable thin blue line, but Ipswich had the greater urgency in the last few minutes and in the end a point each was probably fair enough, although sub Sam Winnall made Holy work with a good effort in the last minute that would have won the game for the U's.
A point on the road is always welcome, it's just that United's league form has been so good that a draw is a slight surprise these days.
Take a point, regroup and move on to Portsmouth on Tuesday.
Report by Chris ‘yes, “trilled” ’ Williams, pictures by Steve Edmunds, stats by OPTA