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Ipswich Town held to goalless draw at home to fellow promotion chasers Oxford United

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Ipswich Town had gone into this afternoon's Sky Bet League One clash with Oxford United looking to close the gap to their opponents in sixth place to a single point.

But despite hitting the post twice in the first half through Macauley Bonne and Bersant Celina, and dominating the second period, a goalless draw left them remaining four adrift of the U's.

It was the first time Paul Cook's free-scoring side had failed to find the back of the net in the league this season, leaving the Blues remaining ninth in the table and Oxford staying in sixth.

The Town boss made two enforced changes, in both full-back positions, from Town's last league line-up, the 4-1 win at Wycombe Wanderers on November 2.

Ipswich-raised Bailey Celments, who impressed as a second-half substitute in Tuesday's Papa John's (EFL) Trophy goalless draw, and subsequent penalty shootout victory, over Colchester United came in for his Football League debut in place of the injured Hayden Coulson. Fellow left-back Matt Penney was also not in the squad.

At right-back it was Janoi Donacien replacing the injured Kane Vincent Young, who hurt his shoulder in the Colchester match.

Like he did against Newport earlier in the campaign, Macauley Bonne came close on several occasions but was unable to add to his season tally for Ipswich Town against Oxford United Picture: Barry Goodwin
Like he did against Newport earlier in the campaign, Macauley Bonne came close on several occasions but was unable to add to his season tally for Ipswich Town against Oxford United Picture: Barry Goodwin

The players' late emergence out of the tunnel, before an impeccably observed two minute silence for Remembrance Day and taking the knee against racism once again, meant the match did not kick off until 3.05pm.

But it was not long before it burst to life with Town's top scorer Macauley Bonne seeing his near-post header from a fourth-minute corner, following his cross-shot being turned away, cannon back off Simon Eastwood's left-hand post after the 'keeper had turned his cross-shot out.

Within two minutes the visitors threatened the opener themselves with Christian Walton having to produce an arcing save to his left to tip Mark Sykes' rising effort from just inside the penalty area over his crossbar.

Karl Robinson's side continued to look lively and Jordan Thornley headed well over from a deep free kick before Walton rose to claim a deflected shot from James Henry.

Having weathered some decent pressure from the U's, Town were once again denied by the same post in the 19th minute. Bersant Celina's low shot from the edge of the box, after a charging Celements run, came back out before Sam Long cleared.

Approaching the half-hour mark both sides carved out half chances with Town skipper Sam Morsy's low long-range effort deflecting over before a low Nathan Holland effort across goal saw Walton make a fairly routine save.

It was Oxford who finished the half more strongly with Town's defending far from convincing as last-minute blocks from Donacien and Nsiala prevented clear goalscoring opportunities.

Robinson, meanwhile, was getting hot under the collar on the touchline, leading to being shown a yellow card by referee Scott Oldham.

Just like in the first half, the hosts were out of the blocks quickly following the restart with Bonne drawing a low save to Eastwood's left after Celina's cross found him in the box.

The bright spell continued as Kosovo international Celina curled an effort from the edge of the box past the far post before Bonne was inches away from sliding in on a low dangerous cross from Clements after good build-up play.

Town continued to dominate past the hour mark and Edwards fired over the left-hand upright after some more eye-catching interchanges.

Oxford's finally threatened again in the 66th minute when Henry put a dangerous cross into the box with Nsiala doing well to head it over his own crossbar.

With 20 minutes to play both sides opted to make changes with Town bringing on Conor Chaplin and Sone Aluko into the wide areas for Edwards and Burns.

And Chaplin was immediately in the thick of the action, with his endeavours winning corner before soon sending a low effort from outside the area past the left-hand post.

There were no further chances until the last six minutes when fellow sub Aluko turned Jordan Thorniley inside out down the right before crossing for Chaplin whose clipped effort went wide at the near post.

It was a tense finish without either side being able to force the opposition's goalkeeper into further action, with Town fans left frustrated as Oxford helped to run the clock down to become the first league side to keep a clean sheet against the Suffolk outfit.

The Blues now turn their attention back to the Emirates FA Cup and a replay up at lower-league Oldham Athletic on Tuesday (7.45pm).

Ipswich Town: Walton, Edmundson, Burns (Aluko 71'), Evans, Bonne, Nsiala, Edwards (Chaplin 71'), Clements, Celina (Pigott 90+3), Donacien, Morsy (c). Unused subs: Hladky, Harper, Fraser, Burgess.

Oxford United: Eastwood, Long, Thorniley, Moore (c), Brannagan, Taylor Agyei 89'), Sykes, Henry (McGuane 70'), Kane, Holland, Seddon. Unused subs: Plumley, Williams, Forde, McNally, Bodin.

Attendance: 21,322 (922 visitors)

SuffolkNews Man of the Match: It was certainly a day for the defenders and although both home full-backs shone but Janoi Donacien gets the nod for another highly dependable display down the right.

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