A FRUSTRATED Chris Wilder rued a lack of magic in the final third as Oxford United were held to a goalless draw by Portsmouth at the Kassam Stadium.
The home side never looked like losing a game they largely controlled, but created precious little in front of goal.
A big crowd, swelled by almost 2,500 away fans, produced a good atmosphere but the game did not match it, with neither goalkeeper tested.
Ryan Williams has a shot at goal
The result made it four games without a victory for United, their longest winless run of the season, and Wilder admitted the side was missing a spark where it mattered most.
“I’m more frustrated than disappointed because the application and effort of the players was really good, we just needed a break,” the United manager said.
“At the moment we are just looking for a little bit of magic, somebody to do something a bit special to get our noses in front.”
United set up in a different formation, using Johnny Mullins in a three-man midfield to help protect the back four.
There was some surprise when top scorer James Constable was only named on the bench, leaving Deane Smalley to play as a lone striker, supported by Ryan Williams and Sean Rigg.
Afterwards it emerged Constable, known as Beano, had been troubled by a foot injury during the week.
Michael Raynes gets above Sonny Bradley
Wilder also explained he switched the shape in response to home defeats against Plymouth and Scunthorpe in their last two outings.
He said: “We wanted to go with a 4-3-3 and have a change to get something else going at home.
“We have tried a 4-4-2 for a couple of games and that’s not really come off for us.
“We tried and I thought the shape, especially in the first half, was fine.
“We have a few games coming up and it was a toss up between starting Beano and bringing Deane on, or start Deane and bring Beano on.
“Deane has trained all week and Beano hasn’t, so that was the decision I made.”
The stalemate saw United drop to seventh place, now five points adrift of the top three.
Danny Rose sees a shot blocked
But Wilder took comfort from the fact it was a marked improvement on their previous game, a 2-0 home defeat against Scunthorpe United.
“It’s loads better,” he said. “That’s the way I view it, it’s not three points and maybe we have slipped a bit, but there’s still a long way to go and, as always, people think short term.
“I think we needed a decent performance because there was a bit of pressure on us and unfortunately we have not been able to get the goal that might have nicked a tight game.”