Ipswich Town 0-0 Oxford United: Blues improve but more is needed

Josh Harrop with a crucial injury time challenge as Liam Kelly was about to shoot.

Josh Harrop with a crucial injury time challenge as Liam Kelly was about to shoot. - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town and Oxford played out a goalless draw in what was a tight contest at Portman Road. 

At the end of what has been one of the most turbulent weeks in the recent history of the club, the Blues put in a much-improved display from Tuesday night’s stalemate with Northampton but still weren’t able to find a route to goal. 

The visitors came into this game top of the League One form table and having recently set a club record with nine-successive victories, but Town limited them to few chances, with Tomas Holy having just one save to make.

The closest Town came was a James Norwood shot which rattled away off the inside of the post, with Town failing to take advantage when on top of their visitors during the opening exchanges of the second half. 

Myles Kenlock battling with Elliot Lee.

Myles Kenlock battling with Elliot Lee. - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

In isolation this would be a positive result but, in the context of Town’s failing season, more is needed if the Blues are going to seriously jump back into the promotion race, with manager Paul Lambert remaining under real pressure as his side remain outside looking in. 

The point leaves Town 12th in the table six points from the play-offs, heading into a clash with third-placed Hull on Tuesday night. 

Lambert made seven changes to his side, restoring captain Luke Chambers at right-back and bringing the partnership of Toto Nsiala and James Wilson back into the heart of defence for the first time since the end of October. 

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Teddy Bishop came in for the suspended Flynn Downes alongside Andre Dozzell, with Troy Parrott, Keanan Bennetts and Alan Judge lining up as the three behind Norwood. 

The Town striker had the game’s first chance as a hanging cross allowed him to generate some power on his header back across goal, where defender Rob Atkinson was able to clear easily off the line. 

Bennetts was the next to try his luck, curling a low effort which Jack Stevens was able to hold, before Wilson flashed an Oxford cross over the top of his own bar. The following corner saw a second cross arrive once play broke down, with Myles Kenlock doing superbly well to block Elliot Lee’s header.  

Troy Parrott fires the ball forwards.

Tottenham loanee Troy Parrott is available again after being away on international duty with the Republic of Ireland. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Town threatened again when Judge sprung a counter-attack from deep, setting Norwood away to hook the ball across the field for Bennetts, who in turn pulled the ball back to the feet of Parrott. Sadly, the Tottenham loanee’s shot flew just wide of the far post.  

Brandon Barker lashed wide from the edge of the box before Parrott sent a free-kick into the wall to end the half, with Bennetts starting the second with a crisply-struck shot which flashed just wide of the far post as Oxford failed to deal with a Town corner. 

The Blues came so close to taking the lead when Bishop helped the ball through to Norwood who, on the stretch, struck the inside of the post before Bishop again was the creator as he danced into the area and crossed for Parrott to turn wide from inside the six-yard box. 

Oxford were the next to threaten as Mark Sykes got in behind Kenlock and crossed for Matt Taylor, but the former Bristol City and Rovers man could only head over the top when he would surely feel he could have done better. 

James Wilson and Matty Taylor battle for the ball.

James Wilson and Matty Taylor battle for the ball. - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Town huffed and puffed, bringing on Josh Harrop, Aaron Drinan and Freddie Sears, but their route to goal had dried up as they were left to settle for a point. 

They only held onto that thanks to goalkeeper Holy's good late save from Sam Winnall.

Ipswich Town: Holy; Chambers, Wilson, Nsiala, Kenlock; Dozzell, Bishop (Harrop, 74), Judge, Parrott, Bennetts (Sears, 80); Norwood (Drinan, 80)

Subs: Cornell, Matheson, Ward, Lankester

Oxford United: Stevens, Moore, Atkinson, Ruffles, Gorrin (Shodipo, 63), Brannagan, Forde, Lee, Barker (Kelly, 88), Lee (Henry, 63), Taylor (Winnall, 74)

Subs: Eastwood, Hall, Grayson

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