OXFORD United remain stuck at the wrong end of the Sky Bet League One table after problems at both ends saw them lose at home to Walsall.

Once again there were issues in the final third, as a week after the goalless draw at Wycombe Wanderers they again struggled to make the most of their best moments going forward.

James Henry did get on the scoresheet late on, but it proved to be just a consolation.

Walsall had already built a cushion, through goals from Morgan Ferrier and former U’s loanee Zeli Ismail, who cashed in on United’s defensive frailties.

Ferrier was given the freedom of United’s half to score with the home side’s back four appealing for offside.

The visitors then exploited acres of space just before the hour for Ismail to score on the counter-attack.

Henry’s late goal gave United hope, but with nine games gone they have just one league win and sit second bottom in the table.

Jamie Hanson came straight into the side after serving a suspension in place of the concussed Cameron Brannagan, while Sam Smith was preferred up front to Jon Obika, who was on a bench where boss Karl Robinson named only six substitutes.

The home side were the first to threaten in the drizzle, when John Mousinho’s volley from Ricky Holmes’s free-kick flew just wide.

Walsall though arrived flying high in the table after a fine start to the season and they showed a clinical edge which saw them make the most of their forays forward.

Jon Guthrie should have scored when he met a 12th-minute corner, but despite being inside the six-yard box he headed straight at Jonathan Mitchell.

The U’s keeper was quickly called into action again from another set piece, where a routine saw Luke Leahy picking out Zeli Ismail on the penalty spot. His effort was saved, as was another low shot from Josh Ginnelly midway through the half.

Walsall took their next chance, but United could not believe it was allowed to stand. A ball over the top sent Ferrier sprinting clear as the home side’s back four all stopped, waiting for an offside flag which never came, allowing the striker time to beat Mitchell.

The hosts shrugged off the setback and had two quick chances to level.

Ricky Holmes’s free-kick found Curtis Nelson, who must have thought he had scored with a header eight yards out, only for Liam Roberts to make a stunning save.

United came even closer a minute later when a corner dropped to Mousinho. He kneed the ball towards the top corner, but on the line George Dobson leapt to nod it on to the crossbar and the Sadders survived the resulting scramble.

While their luck was out there, it was most definitely in nine minutes later.

Indecision in midfield allowed Jack Fitzwater’s loose touch to go unpunished and find Ismail. His cross picked out an unmarked Josh Gordon, whose shot hit the far post and rebounded to Ferrier, who from four yards turned the ball on to the crossbar.

United seemed determined to go for broke early in the second half, playing very expansively.

Henry whipped a shot just over from 20 yards, but it was a high-risk strategy which gave Walsall space to attack if the ball was lost cheaply.

That exact scenario arose on 58 minutes, when Hanson had a pass cut out on the halfway line by Isaiah Osbourne. United caught wide open and were outnumbered as Gordon advanced to slip in Ismail, who picked out the far corner of Mitchell’s net with a low strike from 15 yards.

United poured forward in search of a way back into the game, but for all their pressure there was a real lack of ruthlessness when it really counted.

Walsall defended well and were the ones who came closest to scoring when they did come forward – Ferrier sending a header which clipped the crossbar midway through the half.

With Obika coming on for Smith just before the second goal, United had no other options to shake up the side in an attacking sense.

They looked out of ideas, but did pull a goal back three minutes from time when Henry turned in Mousinho’s shot.

United threw on Rob Dickie as a makeshift centre forward and in stoppage time it appeared to have worked when the centre half went down in the box.

But referee Alan Young awarded a Walsall free-kick, before seconds later blowing for full-time.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Mitchell, Norman (Dickie 90), Nelson, Mousinho, Garbutt, Baptiste, Hanson (Ruffels 85), Whyte, Henry, Holmes, Smith (Obika 57).

Unused subs: Shearer, Long, Dickie, Raglan.

Booked: Mousinho, Henry, Garbutt.

Walsall (4-4-2): Roberts, Devlin, Guthrie, Fitzwater, Leahy, Ismail (Wilson 76), Dobson, Osbourne, Ginnelly, Gordon, Ferrier.

Unused subs: Dunn, Morris, Cook, Kinsella, Johnson, Ronan.

Booked: Fitzwater, Dobson, Gordon, Ginnelly, Cook.

Referee: Alan Young.

Attendance: 6,080 (658 visitors).