A feisty affair ended goalless at the training ground on Saturday as Cheltenham and Oxford were unable to find the net.
An end to end start saw both teams enjoy their fair share of possession in the first ten minutes but the best chances were created by the home side. A good tackle and some brave goalkeeping denied Callum Ebanks on two occasions while Oxford struggled to get the ball near the Cheltenham goal.
Oxford had the first attempt of the game, firing over from the edge of the box. Just a couple of minutes later they had a penalty shout as the ball was played across the face of goal and both teams slid in to meet it, neither got to the ball and the referee showed no interest in the away side's appeals.
The end to end action continued throughout as Oxford won a free kick 30 yards out but the shot was straight at Ben Hoy. The ball went straight down the other end but the shot went over the bar after good goalkeeping forced the shot.
Ebanks enjoyed the best chances of the first 25 minutes, doing well to collect the ball on the edge of the box multiple times but struggling to get a clear shot at goal. Soon after, Adulai Sambu won the ball in midfield to start an attack which saw a cross into the box and after the away side failed to deal with it, it fell to Sambu once more who forced a good save from Eddie Brearey in the Oxford goal.
Half time saw the teams head in all square in a very close affair.
The best chance of the game fell to the travelling side as a corner was whipped into the six yard box just two minutes in but headed over from close range, both sides would fashion chances but neither would see such a clear cut opportunity for most of the second half. The U's had the better chances of the last forty-five as Josh Johnson waltzed through the defence and through on goal only for a last ditch slide to deny him a shot.
A controversial opener and potentially winner almost came on the 65th minute when the referee and assistant disagreed on which way a throw-in should go, with Oxford taking advantage of the confusion to take quickly and go through on goal via Aidan Elliot-Wheeler while Cheltenham had a man off the pitch. A good save from Hoy was all that stood between a draw and a loss.
First team experienced Felix Miles came on with 20 minutes to go and could have won the game for Pete Haynes’ side after being played through on goal, but was denied a scoring chance by Brearey coming out bravely to smother the ball. Miles also had a shout for a spot kick with half-hearted appeals after going down in the box.
Cheltenham’s best chance of the second half fell to Ebanks who collected the ball out wide and ran forward to fire just wide of the top left corner. The post was all that came between Oxford and a late winner as Enrique Tiamuna saw his effort rebound off the woodwork and the game ended without a goal.
Coach Ashley Vincent reflected on the draw after the game saying: “I think it was slightly frustrating that we couldn’t get our quality going in the last third, we had good possession, good football high up the pitch and too many times passed it into the box rather than work some better angles or positions to for better slides, better through balls and shooting opportunities.
“It’s the second time we played them this season, we got beat heavily at their place [4-0] and it was good to see some competitive performances in there and good organisation from the side today.
“I thought they [Cheltenham’s players] were fantastic, they managed the game really well and I think that they tried to compete fairly and so did the Oxford boys as well. I thought it was a very competitive game and where we’re looking at it from the footballing side, it’s trying to get that quality to come out after the hustle and bustle.
"We’ve got footballers here and it’s that ice in the mind that can they bring it out to get the ball down and play the way we want them to play.
“I thought it was a fair result, you’re only ever happy if you win, it was a fair result we would have liked some more quality at the top end of the pitch to give us some more opportunities, better opportunities to score goals."