Oxford United and Charlton Athletic were left with a point each at the Kassam Stadium this afternoon as they ground out a 0-0 draw that keeps both teams on the edge of the play-off chase without really helping either close the gap to the clubs above.
United edged the chances over a tough 90 minutes but were grateful to keeper Jack Stevens, whose last-minute penalty save ensured they took something away from a tough game.
United certainly started on the front foot, with the new-look right flank of Jamie Hanson and Anthony Forde seeing plenty of the ball and Dan Agyei putting himself about up front, although knocks to Josh Ruffels and Adam Matthews took the tempo out of the game early on and led to a disjointed first half hour.
United created chances even so; Agyei sliced the first half chance into the car park and Mide Shodipo smashed an effort against a defender’s ankles to send an otherwise goalbound effort wide of the mark, while former U’s midfielder Jake Forster-Caskey headed a Chris Gunter cross over the top with the visitors’ only real chance of the first half.
That was down to a solid looking United defence, but other than a Brannagan drive on 40 minutes, visiting keeper Ben Amos hadn’t truly had too much work to do at the other end.
Ruffels flashed a spectacular effort wide of the mark on 42 which would have won Goal of the Season if it had been three feet to the right, Liam Kelly drove another shot wide, but otherwise the two sides had largely cancelled each other out in the opening 45 minutes.
The introduction of Jayden Stockley at the break gave Charlton a new threat and the striker did nod a cross wide soon after his arrival, but it was Man of the Match Forde, at the heart of almost everything United created in attack, who came closest to breaking the stalemate with a fine effort on the hour which crashed back off the bar with Amos beaten.
A left-footed effort from the same player drew another save from Amos and the introduction of the attack-minded Brandon Barker, Mark Sykes and Matty Taylor signalled United's intent.
But see previous match reports: a good even contest between two evenly matched and very well-organised sides. United never looked like losing but four draws in five games is there for you 'glass half empty' people, or two defeats in 18 is there for the half fullers.
Me? It has been a tough day for the whole football club. A gritty battle, some tough challenges and no quarter asked or given. A league debut for a youth-team product - Leon Chambers-Parillon - and a penalty save from another when Jack Stevens kept the clean sheet intact with the last touch of the game by pushing a Ronnie Schwartz penalty, harshly given, over the bar.
I know someone who would have approved of all those things and I'm just sorry we couldn't get the win for him.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels, stats by OPTA