Oxford United 0-0 Ipswich Town: Lambert’s Blues draw a blank as visitors lack bite at Kassam Stadium

Oli Hawkins has perhaps the best chance for Ipswich but his free header went into the arms of the ke

Oli Hawkins has perhaps the best chance for Ipswich but his free header went into the arms of the keeper at Oxford United Picture Pagepix Ltd - Credit: Pagepix

Ipswich Town drew a blank as they failed to force the issue during their goalless draw at Oxford. 

Coming into the game on the back of two home losses to promotion contenders and with manager Paul Lambert under increasing pressure, the injury-hit Blues never truly looked like scoring on a night where they failed to have a shot on target until the 89th minute. 

That also meant the hosts picked up their first clean sheet of the campaign, with Karl Robinson’s side in possession of the third-worst defensive record in League One, behind only Swindon and Burton. 

The Ipswich forwards lacked support for much of the contest with the midfield behind them struggling to create in a game where Oxford enjoyed the majority of possession and had the better chances to break the deadlock. 

Keanan Bennetts has a shot blocked at Oxford United Picture Pagepix Ltd

Keanan Bennetts has a shot blocked at Oxford United Picture Pagepix Ltd - Credit: Pagepix

The introduction of Oli Hawkins and Kayden Jackson in the second period gave Ipswich different options in the final third, as they looked to their big centre forward Hawkins to bring team-mates into play with his head, but Paul Lambert’s men never truly looked like finding a winner. 

The point moves Town up to fifth heading into next weekend’s visit to Plymouth Argyle. 

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Lambert made five changes to the side which lost at home to Charlton on Saturday, many of which were enforced due to an ever-growing injury list. 

James Norwood and Toto Nsiala dropped out of the side with hamstring injuries, with Aaron Drinan and Mark McGuinness replacing them, while there was a welcome return in the middle of midfield as Jon Nolan came in in place of Brett McGavin. 

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Armando Dobra came in from the cold on the right wing and Jack Lankester in central midfield, with Alan Judge and Liam Gibbs dropping to the bench. 

In what is Town’s final game behind-closed-doors, before limited numbers of spectators return from Saturday, they were greeted by fake crowd noise being pumped into the stadium via Oxford’s PA system, which continued throughout the game. 

Clad in their new ‘aqua’ away kit for the first time, the Blues had some decent spells of possession early on but struggled to move the ball into attacking areas and threaten an Oxford defence yet to keep a clean sheet this season. 

Keanan Bennetts was the first to shoot, with his effort flying high and wide, before Josh Ruffels sent a low shot skidding along the turf which eventually proved comfortable for David Cornell to gather.  

Town just about managed to deal with a ball which caused worry in their six-yard box, conceding a corner, which ended with an Oxford near miss as Liam Kelly’s delivery was headed wide by Elliott Moore after the centre-back had lost his man. 

Both sides were content to keep the ball and remain patient, with Ipswich the next to threaten as Nolan’s ball from deep nearly sprung Drinan away, only for the Irishman to be beaten to the through-ball by home keeper Jack Stevens. 

David Cornell had to spring well to push Marcus McGuane’s effort away before James Henry rattled the outside of the Welshman’s post with a header as Luke Woolfenden struggled to clear a cross convincingly.  

The first half came to an end with Oxford having had the better of the chances and the hosts continued to have the better of things at the start of the second period, with defender Mark McGuinness having a tough time of things as he was turned inside out by Henry before badly misjudging a ball into the area as he missed his header in a dangerous position. 

Rob Atkinson was the next to have a shot at the Town goal, with Woolfenden left on the turf after blocking Rob Atkinson’s effort, before Paul Lambert turned to his bench for the first time. 

Kayden Jackson and Oli Hawkins were the men summoned, replacing Jack Lankester and Aaron Drinan, with Ipswich switching to two up top, but it was Oxford who were next to threaten as Olamide Shodipo’s shot was deflected wide by a good Nolan block before Cornell had to push Henry’s shot away from the following corner. 

The Blues reached the 75-minute mark without having a shot on target, with Bennetts then wasting a good cross at one end before Cornell had to charge off his line to stop Matt Taylor reaching a good through ball at the other. The Welshman’s hurried clearance sprung his side away on the attack, with Dobra seeing Nolan’s run and slipping the midfielder through to shoot wide. 

Town then rattled the crossbar as Dozzell’s drifting corner bounced off the woodwork and sat up for Hawkins to head into the floor, before Oxford scrambled clear, with the former Portsmouth striker’s introduction bringing the Blues a new dimension in attack as they looked for his head and then attempted to reach the resulting knockdown. 

It was Hawkins who had Town’s first effort on target, nodding a header straight into the hands of Jack Stevens, which was as good as it got for Ipswich before the full-time whistle blew. 

Oxford United: Stevens, Long, Moore, Atkinson, Ruffels, Gorrin, Henry (Clare, 79), McGuane, Kelly (Mousinho 86), Shodipo (Obita, 71), Taylor (Agyei 86)

Subs: Eastwood, Hall, Forde

Ipswich Town: Cornell; Chambers, Woolfenden, McGuinness, Ward; Dozzell, Nolan, Lankester (Jackson, 61) Dobra (Judge, 78), Bennetts; Drinan (Hawkins, 61)

Subs: Holy, Donacien, Kenlock, Gibbs

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