4:57pm Monday 31st August 2009
By Jon Murray
Oxford United dropped their first points at home this season as Forest Green frustrated them at the Kassam Stadium.
Matt Green missed two glorious chances from close in, one in each half, as the U's failed to score for the first time this campaign.
The Gloucestershire outfit hadn't managed a point in six previous Blue Square Premier matches but they carved out arguably the better chances after playing with great enterprise going forward.
There was another special atmosphere at the ground as United fans came out in good numbers on the warm afternoon, with the Oxford Mail Stand a sea of yellow.
Chris Wilder brought Alfie Potter and Matt Green back into the side, and gave a debut to on-loan Rangers left back Steven Kinniburgh.
It didn't take the U's long to find space as they attacked towards the car park end in the first half, Adam Murray picking out Green for one penetrating run, and then delivering a pinpoint cross for Mark Creighton, which the big man controlled on his chest only to see the ball run away to the keeper.
There was controversy in the tenth minute when Forest Green striker Sean Rigg was booked for diving in the box to try to win a penalty, just seconds after a fine last-ditch tacle by Kinniburgh on Jon Challinor which prevented him getting in a shot.
After the furore with Arsenal's Eduardo, it wasn't the brightest thing for Rigg to try.
Murray has sown he can play just about anywhere in the team, and this time he was operating on the left of midfield.
And when Simon Clist's deft chip over a defender gave the captain the opportunity to fire over a left-wing cross, it should have brought United a goal.
The cross was perfectl;y weighted in front of keeper Terry Burton and behind the visitors' defence, but Green scooped it over the bar for a miss he will find hard to believe.
The striker had another half-chance later in the opening period when he darted in between the two central defenders, but screwed a left-foot shot wide.
By then, Kinniburgh had been involved in more drama with a hard, two-footed - but not high - tackle on Jon Challinor near the left touchline. It left Challinor rolling around on the ground in pain but after treatment he was fine to continue.
Some Forest Green players clearly thought the tackle was dangerous, but the ref, who was only yards away, didn't.
As the home side continued to press, Dannie Bulamn tried his luck with a 20-yard drive, which Terry Burton saved to his left.
Forest Green were a lot better going forward than their league position shows, and it needed some good tracking back by Clist, against his former club, to deny them a goal after they had got behind United's defence.
In the last throes of the first half, James Constable was left very frustrated by a harsh refereeing decision that he had fouled Mark Ellis. To most people in the stadium, it looked a fair challenge and he would have been left with a clear run on goal.
The second half started scrappily and it was the visitors, going up an extra gear, who looked the more likely to break through.
Left back Curtis McDonald played a one-two and brke clear, but fired an angled shot into the side-netting.
With Jack Midson still injured, Wilder didn't have a striker on the bench to bring on as his team started running out of ideas.
It looked as though their best opportunity might come from a set piecem and on 68 minutes, Creighton headed Kinniburgh's free-kick across goal for Constable, running in, but he planted his header wide.
On the break, Rovers then nearly snatched the lead.
Left back Paul Stonehouse broke clear to fire in a shot from the left edge of the box, but Clarke got his fingers to it to ensure it went for a corner.
In injury time, Green went close with a flicked header, this time from a difficult chance, and Forest Green's timewasting tactics paid off as the time ran out.
Oxford Utd: Clarke; Batt, Foster, Creighton, Kinniburgh; Potter (Chapman 79), Bulman, Clist, Murray, Constable, Green. Subs not used: Turley, Sandwith, Kelly, Perry.
Ref: Wayne Barratt (Worcestershire).
Att: 6,338 (146 from Forest Green)
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