Oxford United missed a great chance to close the gap on leaders Dagenham to six points after failing to claim the win their play deserved.

With new signings Martin Foster and Mickey Corcoran impressing, the U's played with much more fluency and fought back well after falling behind in the first half.

Eddie Anaclet salvaged a draw with his first goal for the club, but Jim Smith's team have now gone ten league matches without a win.

Former Tamworth player Anaclet popped up with a 57th-minute header after Andy Duncan's first-half opener had given Cambridge the lead.

Jimmy Quinn's team were even reduced to ten men for the last ten minutes after midfielder Christian Smith was shown a straight red card for a dangerous challenge on Foster.

Cambridge had some justification, though, for feeling they were being picked on by Essex referee John Hopkins, who also found the need to book another six of their players in a game that was physical, but not nearly as dirty as he made it look.

It is a very dangerous thing to describe a referee as "a homer" because it implies a lack of integrity and honesty.

Yet the percentage of decisions Mr Hopkins gave to the hosts was higher than I can recall since Oxford United's match at Blackburn in the early 90s when the ref that day played seven minutes of stoppage time and seemed determined that the game would carry on until Rovers had scored.

Smith changed the formation to 4-4-2, dropping Andy Burgess to the bench while Latvian striker Kris Grebis was axed altogether.

Corcoran made some good tackles in the first few minutes and it didn't take Foster long to stamp his authority in midfield.

Rob Duffy forced Cambridge keeper Shane Herbert into a save to his left in the sixth minute when he got his head to Barry Quinn's right-wing cross.

And Yemi Odubade sent a curling shot narrowly over the bar after Foster picked him out with a fine crossfield pass to the left-hand side.

But it was Cambridge who went closest to breaking the deadlock in the early stages when David Bridges drove across the face of the goal from a tight angle on the right ten yards out.

The Oxford fans had booed their team off against the Diamonds five days earlier, but they got behind the team well vocally as the home side put together some well-constructed moves, although they again lacked a cutting edge in attack.

Skipper Phil Gilchrist directed a glancing header a yard wide at a free-kick and Odubade, who had scored twice in Oxford's 3-0 win at Cambridge in October, started to cause problems with his trickery.

But on 31 minutes, Cambridge took the lead against the run of play from Courtney Pitt's free-kick.

The former Oxford winger swung the free-kick in from the right and Duncan rose high to head in his first goal of the season.

Before the break, visiting trio Aidan Collins, Jon Brady and Bridges were all yellow-carded, and they were joined by Foster, who committed a professional foul in the middle of the park to halt a Cambridge counter-attack.

There was slightly more urgency and fight about Oxford's play in the second half and Chris Hargreaves might have done better than drive well over when Duffy teed the ball up for him on the edge of the area.

But 12 minutes into the second half, Oxford equalised from an unlikely source.

Foster played in Odubade on the left edge of the box and the ex-Eastbourne Borough forward sprinted past one challenge and crossed for Anaclet to head in from six yards out, after Duffy left the ball to him.

As Cambridge tried to hit back immediately, to regain the lead, Corcoran headed out from under his own crossbar, and from the corner, driven flat and dangerously by Pitt, goalkeeper Chris Tardif tipped it over with some difficulty.

Odubade's speed and direct running stretched Cambridge's back line and the pressure began to build.

Twice he got around the back of the visitors' defence, but nothing came of his crosses.

After Christian Smith's dismissal, Quinn sacrificed striker Chillingworth and threw on Rob Wolleaston.

Cambridge had to withstand a lot of crosses in five minutes of stoppage time, but they held out.

Overall, though, it was much, much better from United. And if they maintain this for their final 16 games, they will not be far away.