BLANK BUOYS OXFORD BOSS
FOUR clean sheets in five games are keeping Oxford United on course for League Two survival, according to manager Michael Appleton.
Lowly Oxford, who have now moved up to 17th, held play-off contenders Plymouth Argyle to a stalemate at the Kassam Stadium.
It was a war of attrition, a match which did not see a shot on target until the 75th minute.
But Appleton was pleased with a point after a solid defensive display.
He said: “You try to win your home games but what you don’t want to do is lose them.
“That is four clean sheets now and the players deserve credit for that. You give yourself every opportunity to win the game.
“It was a cagey match. They are a side who want to push themselves into the play-offs and we are a side who want to pick up as many points as possible to get over the line.
“It was always going to be a tight affair. After we missed chances in the first ten minutes, we knew it was going to be a 0-0 game or decided on a mistake.”
Josh Ruffels’ shot in the opening five minutes was scuffed before Patrick Hoban scooped it over the bar from close-range.
The striker, in desperate need of a goal, was unable to keep a second shot down from 15 yards out in the 39th minute, before another strike flew over the bar in the second half.
Alex MacDonald’s curling strike grazed the post in the 58th minute before Argyle keeper Luke McCormick easily collected Kemar Roofe’s shot – Oxford’s only effort on target – deep in stoppage time.
But Plymouth also struggled to find the back of the net and no one felt that more acutely than Reuben Reid.
On the stroke of half-time, he got on the end of Kevin Mellor’s superb cross, but astonishingly his header hit the bar, the post and bounced along the line before Johnny Mullins cleared it.
And the striker’s weak shot in the 75th minute was easily dealt with by Oxford goalkeeper Ryan Clarke.
Man of the match Drew Talbot saw two stunning strikes fly over the bar in the tenth and 35th minutes.
But it was his expert touches in midfield that impressed manager John Sheridan, who was satisfied with a point.
He said: “It could be a good point in the end.
“We’ve got a clean sheet and it’s important we didn't lose the game.
“Drew has had a great strike but the biggest plus for me was his overall performance.
“There wasn’t much else. I don’t think they really created anything but then again, I don’t think we did.
“But I was comfortable in the game, I never thought we were going to lose it.
“We know the importance of trying to get three points. “But it’s a point, it is something from the game and it keeps us in the mix for the playoffs, which is most important.”
STAR MAN DREW TALBOT Plymou
th BATTLE: Plymouth’s Curtis Nelson puts pressure on Oxford’s James Roberts
CLEAR: Plymouth’s Anthony O’Connor gets the ball away from Kemar Roofe