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Oxford United 0, Newport County 0
SKYBET LEAGUE TWO
OXFORD United were unable to make it two home wins in four days as they were held to a goalless draw by stubborn Newport County tonight.
The home side's best chance was wasted by James Constable early on and from there they produced a disjointed performance.
Newport came with a game plan to frustrate their opponents and after surviving a couple of early scares, they pulled it off.
It was a night where for the first time United badly missed the attacking players who are in the treatment room.
Without the likes of Alfie Potter, Deane Smalley and Sean Rigg the home side had limited firepower to change the game from the bench.
With several of their rivals at the top dropping points, a draw was far from a disaster, but United may see this as a missed opportunity.
Josh Ruffels came in for the first league start of his career, replacing the injured Rigg in the only change to the starting line-up from Saturday's 3-0 win over Morecambe.
The league leaders made a decent start and some fans were celebrating a goal inside five minutes.
Danny Rose's free-kick eventually fell to Michael Raynes, but his stabbed shot went the wrong side of the post, deceiving a section of the South Stand.
Within 60 seconds an even clearer chance arrived when Ryan Williams forced an error from Adejeyi Oshilaja.
The ball ran to an unmarked Constable 20 yards out, but the striker fluffed his lines with a shot which trickled to a relieved Lenny Pidgeley in goal.
After spurning two presentable chances, United lost their impetus as they were guilty of giving the ball away too cheaply.
Newport strung five across the back and were tough to break down.
They had won just once away in the league this season and looked to disrupt United by taking their time whenever the ball ran dead.
A picky referee did not help the spectacle, which quickly grew scrappy.
Going forward Newport forced a couple of nervous moments in United's defence without troubling goalkeeper Ryan Clarke, making his 200th start for the club.
Adam Chapman, who, along with Harry Worley, was returning to his former employers, had a shooting chance on the half hour mark, but his wild finish landed in the car park.
United stirred themselves late in the half, with Constable twice missing the target after getting on the end of set pieces from David Hunt and Rose.
The interval did little to improve the quality of the game and when it began, the second half continued along a similar pattern.
United increasingly tried to force openings, but Newport were able to keep them at arm's length.
The evening was summed up on the hour when Raynes caught a shot sweetly, only to see it blocked by Constable.
Some inspiration was needed and U's boss Chris Wilder turned to Callum O'Dowda.
The teenager replaced Ruffels, who had struggled to make an impact on the left flank.
But, if anything, proceedings deteriorated further as the game was broken up by even more fouls.
United pushed for a winner, but were almost undone on the break five minutes from time.
A hopeful punt forward ended up with Christian Jolley, who unleashed a shot which beat Clarke but grazed the crossbar.
Five minutes were added on, giving faint hope of late drama, but there was no resounding climax as the spoils were shared.
Oxford Utd (4-4-1-1): Clarke, Hunt, Raynes, Mullins, Newey, Williams, Hall, Rose, Ruffels, Kitson, Constable Subs used: O'Dowda (Ruffels 67). Unused subs: Crocombe, Long, Davies, Marsh, Lynn, Bevans, O'Dowda. Booked: Williams, Rose, O'Dowda.
Newport (5-3-2): Pidgeley, Jackson, Ohshilaja, Worley, Yakubu, Willmott, Chapman, Crow (Barker 67), Minshull (Naylor 72), Jolley, Washington. Unused subs: Pipe, Hughes, Sandell, Jones, Flynn Booked: Oshilaja, Crow, Worley, Chapman.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey).
Attendance: 5,042 (437 visitors).
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