Oxford United 0-0 Ipswich Town: Stalemate at the Kassam as contest survives a 20-minute suspension and swamp-like conditions
Ipswich Town and Oxford United ultimately played out a goalless draw in a game disrupted by the weather at the Kassam Stadium.
Heavy rain in the hours building up to kick-off intensified in the minutes before the game, leaving standing water in the centre of the field which left the ball unable to roll cleanly and so nearly led to the game being abandoned.
Instead a near 20-minute suspension allowed work to be carried out to repair the surface and allow some of the water to drain away before the two sides returned to the field to slug it out in what was left of the contest.
Both sides had their moments, with Ipswich returning strongest following the suspension after remaining on the field throughout while their hosts retreated to their dressing room, before the two sides battled away to try and win a game which ultimately ended in stalemate.
Paul Lambert's side will feel aggrieved not to have been awarded a penalty, after John Mousinho appeared to haul James Norwood down inside the box, but referee Tom Yield ultimately waved the appeals away to the disgust of the Ipswich players and staff.
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The point sees Ipswich remain in third but moves them to within two points of Rotherham and Wycombe, who are level at the top of the League One table.
Town manager Paul Lambert made one change to the side which beat Accrington 4-1 at the weekend, with Will Keane coming into the side in place of injured striker Kayden Jackson, while Josh Earl was named as a substitute just a day after completing his loan move from Preston.
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Jon Nolan returned to the bench for the first time since Boxing Day, having suffered a heel problem, while there were substitute places again for Teddy Bishop and Freddie Sears.
The wind was howling in the hours leading up to kick-off but conditions at pitch level as the players completed their warm-up but, when they reappeared for kick-off 15 minutes later, things were very different.
Driving rain flooded in over the south stand roof and left standing water on the pitch, which made for testing conditions in the early stages of the game with the ball struggling to roll cleanly from the simplest of passes.
The first chance of the game was Oxford's, seven minutes in, when Marcus Brown got his head down and drove towards goal and fired a curling effort wide of Will Norris's right post, with the Ipswich goalkeeper left standing as he watched the ball fly by.
Ipswich's first opening was ultimately a good one, even if Luke Woolfenden's ball initially looking comfortable for Josh Ruffels, before the Oxford defender misjudged the flight and allowed Gwion Edwards to steal in and head harmlessly into the ground and into the arms of goalkeeper Simon Eastwood.
Alan Judge then shot wide from range before having a second attempt following a good Will Keane lay-off, with the Irishman's shot sending goalkeeper Eastwood scrambling to his left before it ultimately missed the target.
Judge was at it again seconds later when James Norwood brought the ball down and played it square to the midfielder who attacked this one with his left foot and once again put his effort wide of the post.
James Wilson needed to be alert to make an excellent block to deny Matty Taylor's close-range shot, before an Edwards tackle which left the Welshman covered in mud prompted the first discussions regarding the status of this content.
Managers Lambert and Karl Robinson were spoken to by referee Tom Nield as the rain continued to fall, before captains Luke Chambers and John Mousinho joined in the discussions.
The contest continued for a few minutes but with water splashing everywhere and the ball not rolling, Mr Nield picked up the ball and headed for the tunnel.
He suspended play for five minutes while the 'playing surface was reassessed' with the Blues remaining on the field as Oxford headed for their dressing room. They were back out less than 10 minutes later, though, with the rain stopped and play resuming amid big cheers from the traveling support.
Chambers needed to act well to dig a deep Nathan Holland before Ipswich had the strongest of penalty appeals waved away, despite Mousinho hauling Norwood to the ground inside the box after the Ipswich striker had outfoxed his man under a bouncing ball.
Referee Nield waved those appeals away, incensing those of a blue persuasion and sending Lambert off in search of the fourth official, before Norwood flashed a header wide to end a 63-minute long half of football.
The Blues began to find the Oxford wide players tough to handle at the start of the second half, with Tariqe Fosu hitting the side-netting and Nathan Holland having joy down the right, before Marcus Browne's low shot was held by Norris.
Both sides continued to slog it out on a heavy pitch, with Norris called into action to make an excellent save to his right to deny Ruffels' drive from outside the box to preserve the point.
Five minutes were added on for stoppages and, though the Blues were able to push for a winner, it never came as a point returned to Suffolk.
Oxford United: Eastwood, Long, Dickie, Mousinho, Ruffels; Gorrin, Baptiste, Browne (Sykes, 83); Holland (Brannagan 67), Fosu, Taylor (Mackie, 89)
Subs: Stevens, Moore, Hall, Kelly
Ipswich Town: Norris; Chambers, Wilson, Woolfenden; Edwards, Garbutt, Huws, Downes; Judge; Keane, Norwood (Sears, 69)
Subs: Holy, Earl, Skuse, Nolan, Bishop, Dozzell
Att: 8,191 (1,319 Ipswich fans)