5:00pm Saturday 31st March 2012
By David Pritchard
A FLAT Oxford United lost at home for only the second time since November as Stewart Drummond’s header claimed all three points for Morecambe.
The visitors took an early lead through Craig Curran, but Scott Rendell levelled within a minute.
It failed to inspire Chris Wilder’s side, who created few chances in a desperately poor display.
Drummond netted the winner at a corner in the 74th minute and United’s only real chance for an equaliser came late on when Asa Hall saw a shot well saved.
Top scorer James Constable dropped to the bench in one of three changes from the 2-0 win at Accrington Stanley in midweek.
Scott Rendell replaced the striker, while Andy Whing and Dean Morgan replaced the injured Harry Worley and Oli Johnson respectively.
Morecambe had not scored against the U’s in their last five meetings, but took just three minutes to end the barren record.
A corner was cleared as far as Danny Carlton on the right flank and the striker’s cross found Curran, who stooped unmarked to head past Ryan Clarke.
United’s response was swift and within 60 seconds they were level.
Hall saw a shot from 20 yards parried out by Shrimps goalkeeper Barry Roche to Rendell, who pushed teammate Cristian Montano aside to fire in the rebound.
The hosts should have taken the lead on 13 minutes.
Liam Davis and Dean Morgan combined to find Hall eight yards out, but the midfielder’s scuffed shot was turned behind by Roche.
After the initial burst of activity clear chances became few and far between.
United were sloppy in possession at times and when they did work an opening the final ball lacked quality.
Damian Batt, given the freedom of the right flank by Morecambe, was particularly culpable, wasting several good chances to deliver.
Morecambe had no intention of sitting deep to hang on for a point and they came with plenty of ambition.
But Clarke was relatively untroubled as Jake Wright and Whing kept chances to a minimum.
United came close to taking the lead late in the first half, when Rendell played in Montano, whose cross just evaded Morgan six yards out.
Constable was introduced five minutes after the break as the U’s switched from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2.
The change had little impact on the pattern of the game, with neither goalkeeper extended for long periods.
A clever free-kick straight from the training ground almost gave Morecambe the lead, but Curran blazed wide.
The game opened up as the U’s searched for a breakthrough, but their lack of fluency in possession gave the Shrimps added belief.
They re-took the lead 16 minutes from time, when Drummond headed in at a corner.
United should have been out of the game three minutes later when the ball broke to Gary McDonald ten yards out, but his volley was superbly saved by Clarke.
The hosts huffed and puffed but took until the 90th minute to muster a meaningful effort on goal.
Hall struck a shot sweetly from 20 yards which Roche tipped round the post at full stretch, while Liam Davis headed the corner over the crossbar.
It was the final chance, but in truth United would have been fortunate to take a point following a disappointing performance.
Oxford Utd: Clarke, Batt, Whing, Wright, Davis, Hall, Chapman (Constable 50), Leven, Montano (Wilson 65), Rendell, Morgan Substitutes: Brown, Tonkin, Capaldi
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