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Blues denied derby victory after late leveller
Oxford United 2, Wycombe Wanderers 2.
JOHNNY Mullins denied ten man Wanderers a derby day victory as he struck at the death.
Deep into seven minutes of stoppage time the full back slammed home just as Blues looked set to hold on for a second successive victory in the M40 derby.
Dean Morgan had looked set to have won the game after bagging a brace against his old club with Wanderers down to ten after a red card for Charles Dunne.
Days after agreeing a move to the Championship, Dunne was dismissed for an alleged elbow on Alfie Potter, and to make matters worse Oxford levelled from the free kick that followed.
Morgan's penalty, and an outstanding defensive effort, kept Oxford at bay and it looked set to end in an away win until Mullins broke the hearts of the travelling 988 fans.
Both sides took the direct approach but it reaped little reward for the home side in particular, who looked a shadow of the side who had charged to the top of the table with three wins from three and nine goals.
James Constable, who complained of some rough treatment at the hands of Dave Winfield the last time the sides met at the Kassam Stadium, was left with little ball to create something with and was easily shackled throughout by Blues skipper Gary Doherty.
The only chance the home side could carve out came when former Wanderer Scott Davies scuffed his shot from the edge of the box straight through to Matt Ingram.
Fine defending, rather than poor passing or a lack of nous, prevented the creation of chances at either end as former Oxford man Morgan saw his rising shot deflected over after a bout of head tennis inside the U’s penalty area.
Much of the good football on display came from Billy Knott as he impressed on his debut with his ability to pick a pass and desire to take on a man with his pace and skill, although his only shot of the first half was miscued into the stand.
The Sunderland loanee was booked for tugging back Potter as Oxford looked to counter quickly from a wasted Wanderers free kick, but showed great tenacity and desire to charge down U’s keeper Ryan Clarke’s clearance. The ball bounced out for a throw in though, with Clarke relieved it didn’t go back over his head and into the net.
Clarke showed good awareness to nip in and take the ball from off Steven Craig’s foot as Morgan did superbly to roll his man and beat a passage to goal before laying it into the Scotsman’s path.
But the keeper was powerless to prevent Wanderers going in front through a well-worked goal. Doherty went direct as he played the ball through the air to the edge of the Oxford penalty area, where Knott was loitering with intent.
He cleverly flicked the ball over the dithering home defence and into the path of Morgan, who nipped in ahead of his marker to glance the ball into the net with his head as Wanderers scored a league goal for the first time since the opening day of the season.
It was nearly doubled moments later as Clarke’s display went from the ridiculous to the sublime. The keeper made a total hash of a punched clearance as a team mate went to head the same ball clear and it dropped to Nick Arnold.
From out wide the Reading loanee tried to lob the ball into the unguarded net but Clarke somehow managed to race back and claw the ball away with a stupendous save.
Oxford’s tactics hadn’t worked in the first half and striker Dave Kitson was brought on at half time. The summer signing almost made an instant impact as a combination of Doherty and Knott prevented him from snaking his way into the area and troubling Ingram.
But events conspired against the Blues as the home side were able to draw level.
Dunne and Potter both went chasing after a ball down the right channel and the U’s winger went down after being caught by his opponent’s flailing arm. Referee Andy D’Urso deemed it to be violent conduct and elected to show the full back a straight red card.
To further rub salt into the wound the resulting free kick flew all the way across the penalty area and into the top corner without touching anyone as Danny Rose – the most creative yellow-shirted player of the first half – claimed an equaliser.
Oxford now had their tails up and Kitson should have put them in front as Potter scampered clear down the wing before standing a great cross up to the back post.
But just as the visiting fans were cursing D’Urso – especially with Kitson only receiving yellow for a tangle with Wood that wasn’t dissimilar to Dunne’s indiscretion – their side went back in front thanks to his intervention.
Morgan ghosted into the box and was tugged back by David Hunt, with D’Urso awarding a penalty after the striker tumbled. Clarke guessed the right way but was beaten by the sheer power of Morgan’s spot kick as he thumped home to put Blues 2-1 up.
That failed to spark Oxford into life, although ‘they shall not pass’ seemed to be the motto of the day for a Blues defence that had the outstanding Doherty and Leon Johnson at the heart of it, who soaked up all the home side’s pressure.
The home side didn’t have a clear sight of the Blues goal and a wildly off target Potter shot was all they had to show for their efforts.
Ingram was finally called into action as he tipped away a rising shot from the advancing full back Johnny Mullins and Kitson could only flick a header wide as Oxford belatedly realised they were losing.
Johnson picked up a head injury and Blues were temporarily down to nine men with the 32-year-old off receiving treatment, and with him off the pitch Marvin McCoy made a heroic block to foil Potter.
The full back didn’t cover himself in glory however when Kitson picked his pocket and tried to chip the ball into the far corner, only for Ingram to fling himself full length to tip the ball round the post with a top drawer save.
Seven minutes of stoppage time were signalled and in the sixth of those Mullins broke Blues' resistance. A high ball was nodded down by Constable as he climbed above Sam Wood and into the path of Mullins, who crashed home from 12 yards.
Wanderers: Ingram, McCoy, Johnson, Doherty, Dunne, Arnold, Scowen, Knott (sub Spring), Wood, Morgan (sub Kuffour), Craig (sub Pittman). Substitutes not used: Harrison, Stewart, Kretzschmar, McClure.
Attendance: 7,100 (988 from Wycombe)
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