BLANK BUOYS OX­FORD BOSS

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Laura Win­ter

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.”

PIC­TURES: Pin­na­cle

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

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