Cheltenham Town forced a point in tonight's 1-1 draw at Oxford United courtesy of a Jamie Cureton equaliser.
The first half had offered little in terms of s spectacle but Oxford had certainly had the better chances through that period. The U's were good once again in the second half and they grabbed a deserved lead throgh Ryan Williams but they were soon pegged back by a Kotwica shot that had deflected in off Jamie Cureton for 1-1.
A draw was ultimately a sound result for the Robins who had to defend resolutely and it was a much cherished point in a tough Sky Bet League 2 campaign.
A cold night at the Kassam Stadium brought together two clubs with differing form. Cheltenham Town had enjoyed an upturn in performances and were fresh off the back of a solid point away at Portsmouth but Oxford however were slowly but surely watching automatic promotion disappear from sight. Play-offs were of course still a big possibility for the U's but, with no permanent manager in place, expectations were low amongst members of the home media.
There were no changes for Mark Yates' men following the 0-0 draw at Portsmouth and he watched on as his side played out a quiet first five minutes in what was a quiet atmosphere at the Kassam Stadium. A few early balls into the Oxford area offered little to no threat but the Robins were enjoying a lot of possession in the opening stages of the game with the hosts experiencing a number of misplaced passes. The first shot on goal wasn't really one to remembered as Richards lifted a long range effort far from goal but Oxford were soon settled into the game with Constable starting to pull a few strings.
A yellow card for McGlashan was shown just shy of the 20 minute mark when he blocked off a freekick illegally for a second time and the U's almost picked up another bonus in the form of a goal just a few minutes later when a right wing cross found the head of Constable only for his effort to fly wide of Brown's goal. Another golden opportunity for Oxford came six minutes later when Elliott handed Oxford a freekick on the far side of his area. The freekick was dropped to the head of Constable at the far post and his header back across goal was struck in by Connolly only for it to be blocked wide by a ruby and white body.
The Robins' performance was more flat than what had been witnessed down on the south coast at the weekend and Oxford were starting to build momentum. A James Constable through ball found the surging run of Smalley but the forward's heavy touch allowed Scott Brown enough time to launch off his line and make the save at his feet. Cheltenham were offering little in front of goal except for a testing shot from Deering which did little but warm the gloves of Clarke. James Constable's shot over the bar signalled the end of the first half with Oxford the better side but there was little to discuss over a burger and coffee in the stands as the teams went in at the break at stalemate.
Half Time: Oxford United 0-0 Cheltenham Town
No changes at the break for either side although Vincent and McGlashan did swap wings in an effort to force something on the attack. It was Oxford however that carved out the first chance with Ryan Williams driving through the heart of Cheltenham's backline before delivering a tame shot into the arms of Scott Brown. A larger than life volley from Steve Elliott ten minutes into the half was swept over the bar and into the car park as Cheltenham started to edge their way back into the game.
Mark Yates introduced both David Noble and Jamie Cureton just past the hour mark at the expense of Ashley Vincent and Byron Harrison. It was Noble's first appearance since the Mansfield defeat in December but he was almost forced to watch on as an Oxford spell of pressure almost forced several good attacking chances although Ruffels came closest with a long range shot that ended up in the back of the stand.
A Terry Gornell effort dropped just wide of the post via a deflection just past the 70th minute and from the resulting set piece Matt Richards came close with a low drive at goal. Oxford soon switched Deane Smalley off in favour of Alfie Potter and Cherltenham Town also made a chance, a final one, with Deering being replaced by Zack Kotwica. The Robins came so close to an opener just minutes later when a searching cross found the head of Jamie Cureton who saw his flick header strike the woodwork much to his frustration. That soon came back to haunt Cheltenham however when a ball landed at the feet of Ryan Williams in dangerous territory before the forward rode a few challenges ahead of slipping a neat finish beyond Scott Brown for 1-0. A damning blow for the Robins that left them shaken.
Cheltenham needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat as the game and it just so turned out that the veteran poacher had one in his back pocket. A shot from Zack Kotwica aimed for the back post took a wicked deflection off the veteran striker and looped over the diving figure of Ryan Clarke for 1-1. The travelling fans went crazy, as did Cureton and it was game on on. Oxford were hurt by that goal and they were soon on the attack again with two key blocks in two minutes by Terry Gornell and Matt Richards denying Oxford another goal.
It as a tense last few minutes and four minutes of additional time only added to that. Cheltenham were certainly looking the more threatening past the 90th minute but little else happened to force a winner from either of these teams. Cheltenham on reflection will have been happy with a solid point away from home.
Full Time: Oxford United 1-1 Cheltenham Town
Oxford United FC (4-4-2): Clarke (GK); Hunt, Raynes, Wright, Newey; Williams, Mullins, Ruffels, Smalley (Potter 73); Constable, Connolly
Subs not used: Henly (GK), Whing, Rose, Rigg, Wroe, Davies
Cheltenham Town FC (4-2-3-1): S Brown (GK); Ihiekwe, T Brown, Elliott (C), Jombati; Deering (Kotwica 74), Richards; McGlashan, Gornell, Vincent (Noble 61); Harrison (Cureton 61)
Subs not used: Roberts (GK), Brundle, Braham-Barrett, Taylor
Referee: Mr. Tim Robinson
Attendance: 4,606 (210 from Cheltenham)