WES Thomas struck the woodwork late on as Oxford United missed a great chance to claim a rare win against Northampton Town.

The goalless draw did stop the rot, with Sumrith Thanakarnjanasuth watching on for the first time since buying the majority stake in United.

But both sides, in need of three points to ease relegation concerns, will reflect on missed opportunities.

Northampton had the clearest openings early on, with Chris Long wasting a couple of good chances to open the scoring.

Ricardinho had a shot cleared off the line and Isaac Buckley-Ricketts chipped on to the crossbar before the break.

But United’s big chance came in the 85th minute, when substitute Thomas could not convert a close-range header.

While the takeover was completed on Thursday, the question over who would take over in the dugout was still up in the air, so Derek Fazackerley continued in caretaker charge.

He made one change from the 1-0 defeat to Plymouth Argyle a week earlier, with Ricardinho replacing the injured Joe Rothwell.

Top-scorer Wes Thomas returned on the bench, where Cameron Brannagan was fit enough to feature for the first time.

Northampton had not lost in their last six meetings with the U’s and looked stronger early on.

It took an excellent block from Rob Dickie to deny Chris Long in the third minute, while the striker wasted a glorious chance when he shot wide from Matt Crooks’s cross.

United were opened up again in the 18th minute, as Gboly Ariyibi and John-Joe O’Toole combined well, but again Long let the visitors off the hook by shooting just past Simon Eastwood’s far post from eight yards.

Aside from a Todd Kane effort which skidded wide, the visitors had not made an impact going forward until the 20th minute.

James Henry, United’s most decisive attacker, got in down the right and his low cross found Ricardinho beyond the far post. The Brazilian’s shot was on target, but could not beat Brendan Moloney on the line – and from the follow-up cross Jon Obika was blocked out by Ash Taylor.

Seconds later there was a chance at the other end, but Ariyibi scuffed at Eastwood after latching on to goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell’s long ball.

United went on to have a good spell, in which Isaac Buckley-Ricketts clipped the top of the Cobblers crossbar from 20 yards, while Kane’s sweet strike flew inches wide.

They were relying on creating chances from open play, because their set pieces were abysmal.

The first was taken short by Ricardinho to Henry, whose return pass went for a throw-in. The combination hardly improved for the next two, prompting the large away following to chant “in the box”.

Ricardinho took their advice with the fourth corner, only for it to catch the wind and sail out for a goal kick.

“That’s why we take them short” was the response from United’s supporters, who were enjoying themselves in the sunshine.

The visitors were the first to threaten after the break.

Ricardinho’s cross was just too high for Obika, but Buckley-Ricketts looked set for an easy tap-in until Joe Bunney got a toe on the ball to nick it wide.

The game, which had not been a classic before the break, deteriorated amid a flurry of mis-placed passes.

A sleepy spell came to an end midway through the half, when Eastwood made an excellent save to block Hoskins’s volley from Ariyibi’s cross.

Fazackerley turned to his bench for attacking inspiration, bringing on Thomas and Gino van Kessel for Henry and Obika.

With a pacey pair front United looked far more threatening, pushing the Cobblers back.

The pressure was growing without a clear chance, until five minutes from time.

A U’s corner was only half cleared and when Mowatt crossed the ball back into the danger zone Thomas leapt unmarked, but from six yards his header struck the outside of the near post.

It was the best chance of an end-to-end finish, as two sides who had leaked plenty of goals in recent weeks drew a blank.

Northampton Tn (4-2-3-1): O’Donnell, Moloney, Taylor, Turnbull, Bunney, Grimes, Crooks, Ariyibi (Pereira 71), O’Toole, Hoskins (Facey 88), Long.

Unused subs: Cornell, Barnett, Foley, Powell, McWilliams.

Booked: None.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Eastwood, Kane, Dickie, Mousinho, Smith-Brown, Ledson, Mowatt, Buckley-Ricketts (Napa 81), Henry (Van Kessel 73), Ricardinho, Obika (Thomas 73).

Unused subs: Shearer, Martin, Ruffels, Brannagan.

Booked: None.

Referee: Martin Coy (Co Durham).

Attendance: 7,095 (1,444 visitors).