Oxford United were left wondering just how they failed to pick-up another three points at Forest Green on Saturday.

A number of good chances went begging, but the main talking point on the lips of the huge travelling support as they left Gloucestershire was just how they were not awarded a second-half penalty.

U's striker Justin Richards latched onto a Michael Blackwood header four minutes after the break and was through on goal inside the area.

As he steadied himself to shoot, John Hardiker pulled Richards to the ground right in front of the Oxford fans.

They, along with the U's players, screamed for a penalty, and a huge roar went up as referee Chris Sarginson blew his whistle.

Incredibly, the official gave Forest Green the free-kick and waved away all the protests.

Richards did absolutely nothing wrong, and if he felt it was not a foul, Mr Sarginson should have booked Richards for diving. But he bottled the decision, and left everyone connected with the U's in uproar.

And with the tension among the visiting fans, the situation threatened to boil over.

With supporters forced to stand on emergency exits and in gangways in order to watch the match, feelings were running high and you felt that it was only a good, sustained period from Oxford that kept their fans in the terraces.

U's boss Darren Patterson handed a start to loan signing Jamie Hand and welcomed back striker Craig McAllister from injury.

Fellow loan signing Ryan Semple was named as a substitute in an attack-minded bench which again included no goalkeeper.

The swirly wind ensured good football was at a premium and the main criticism of Oxford's first half display was that too often they failed to keep the ball on the floor.

However, with McAllister and Richards both producing high-class displays in attack with their holding up of the ball and willingness to chase lost causes, United quite often had an outlet.

Oxford started brightly and forced a corner in the fourth minute from which Barry Quinn got in a decent header that Rovers goalkeeper Terry Burton saved well to his left.

The pacy Danny Carey-Bertram always looked a threat down the left flank, and James Clarke knew from an early stage that he was in for a difficult afternoon.

To be fair to the teenager, he stuck to his task well, allowing the winger few good crossing opportunities.

After a period which saw both sides struggling to adjust to the conditions, McAllister tried his luck from distance, but his shot went straight at Burton.

Hand and Adam Murray were working hard to break up play in the centre of the park, but you could tell they had not played together before with Forest Green on a couple of occasions waltzing through the centre.

Hand hit a vicious shot from 25 yards after the ball sat up nicely for him, but although he got a good connection, his shot was well wide.

Oxford keeper Billy Turley was only forced to catch a couple of crosses in the opening 25 minutes, but was given his first scare when Carey-Bertram got in behind the U's defence on the right.

Turley came out to narrow the angle, and Carey-Bertram could only dink an effort across the face of goal and behind for a goal-kick.

All the Forest Green player got for his troubles was treatment after clattering into the advertising hoarding and onto the tarmac behind the goal.

Oxford then created their best chance of the game when Eddie Anaclet delivered a great ball behind the home defence for Richards to chase.

The striker was in acres of space down the right, but he closed down on goal, tried to play in McAllister for a tap-in, but got his pass horribly wrong and a defender cleared with ease.

Murray then went close with a 25-yard free-kick that whistled just over as Oxford went into the break on top.

Richards was then denied his clear-cut penalty before Burton again had to be at his best to keep out Eddie Anaclet's shot with the outside of his right boot after another good Oxford passing move.

The game was never allowed to flow because of so many petty free-kicks given by the referee, who not once took the conditions into account.

Richards then tried to curl a shot into the bottom corner which went just wide, before Patterson withdrew Anaclet and McAllister and threw Matt Green and Semple into the fray.

The Oxford defence looked rarely threatened, but were almost made to pay two minutes from time when a long ball over the top of the defence sent leading scorer Stuart Fleetwood through on goal.

With captain Barry Quinn struggling, his partner in central defence, Luke Foster, was forced to slid in and produced a sensational tackle to clear the danger at full stretch.

And then in stoppage time, Hand's long ball forward sent Green through, and although he hit his shot well enough, Burton saved well to his right before the danger was cleared.

Oxford are clearly making strides forward under Patterson, and but for one shocking decision, would have made it three wins from three.