CHRIS Maguire's deflected strike saw Oxford United's tough week end with a hard-fought draw at mid-table Walsall.

After Wednesday's defeat to Fleetwood Town all but ended their slim hopes of making the Sky Bet League One play-offs, the U's needed a boost.

And they got it with a well-earned point at the Banks's Stadium, where they may have felt victory was within their grasp.

Andreas Makris broke his 30-game barren run to end his goalscoring duck for Walsall and put the hosts in front on 47 minutes.

He crashed a half-volley in via the underside of the bar, which left U's goalkeeper Simon Eastwood grasping at thin air.

But United's response was creditable and Maguire's deflected strike put them deservedly back on level terms with 16 minutes to go.

Oxford made three changes from the side that lost to Fleetwood on Wednesday, with Charlie Raglan, Joe Skarz and Ryan Ledson coming in for Chey Dunkley Josh Ruffels, and Liam Sercombe.

Canice Carroll, after his first senior start in midweek, kept his place at right-back, while Marvin Johnson was given an opportunity up front, partnering Conor McAleny.

Walsall made the brighter start, though, and thought they had taken the lead on four minutes.

Kieron Morris's free-kick was headed across goal by Matt Preston for Scott Laird to tap home, but their celebrations were cut short by the offside flag.

The hosts had their tails up early on and on seven minutes Franck Moussa caught Carroll in possession, before Morris crashed a shot against a post.

Isaiah Osbourne followed up the shot and fired over Eastwood's crossbar to United's relief.

Oxford started to grow into the game and Walsall keeper Neil Etheridge did well to keep out Joe Rothwell's effort from the edge of the area, which took a wicked deflection.

However, Walsall's 3-5-2 system was causing United problems, particularly out wide.

Wing back James McCarthy found space down the right and set up Makris who teed up Morris, but his shot was well kept out by Eastwood.

United were almost clinging on at times at the back, but looked good on the ball and seemed to relish the slick surface without really testing Etheridge again in the first half.

Instead it was Walsall who entered the break on top as Ledson was forced to throw himself in front of an Osbourne pile-driver, before Moussa fired over the bar.

United looked to improve after the break, with Toni Martinez replacing Rothwell as Johnson was moved out wide.

But it was the hosts who carried on from where they left off at the end of the first half, only this time they took their chance.

Joe Edwards chested down a cross-field ball for Makris who unleashed an unstoppable volley which looped over Eastwood and went in off the underside of the bar.

United could have responded immediately, though, as Maguire's cross deflected off James O'Connor on to a post, before Matt Preston cleared as Martinez looked likely to tap home.

The game became end-to-end as Oxford pressed for an equaliser and they had two penalty shouts within three minutes.

However, referee Darren Handley was not convinced when Johnson and Carroll went tumbling under fouls from Moussa and Osbourne respectively.

The goal seemed to wake United into urgency and McAleny headed a Maguire cross straight at Etheridge on 57 minutes as the visitors continued to search for a quick reply.

United looked like they were becoming increasingly frustrated but Walsall, who had pressed well all game, suddenly stood off Maguire 25 yards out.

The Scot went for goal and his low shot struck James O'Connor before rolling past the stranded Etheridge and into the empty net.

United's equaliser shook the hosts back into life and Edwards curled a long range effort high and wide.

But as Walsall enjoyed more possession, Oxford happily countered and after a Martinez break, Raglan headed Maguire's corner over.

McAleny then forced a smart stop from Etheridge on 85 minutes, before curling another effort over.

United ended the game looking more likely to score, but McAleny fired wide in stoppage time as they had to settle for a point.

Walsall (3-5-2): Etheridge, Preston, O'Connor, Laird, McCarthy, Chambers, Osbourne, Morris (Cuvelier 74), Edwards, Moussa (Dobson 69), Makris (Jackson 61).

Unused subs: MacGillivray, O'Connell, Hayles-Docherty, Candlin.

Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Eastwood, Carroll, Raglan, Nelson, Skarz, Maguire, Lundstram, Ledson (Ruffels 83), Rothwell (Martinez HT), McAleny, Johnson (Hemmings 65).

Unused subs: Stevens, Ribeiro, Edwards, Dunkley.

Referee: Darren Handley (Lancashire).

Attendance: 5,417 (1,146 visitors).