A TENSE contest between play-off rivals saw Oxford United claim a hard-earned point against Cheltenham Town at Whaddon Road.

The home side created the lion’s share of the chances, but the closest they came was a Marlon Pack free-kick just before the break which hit the crossbar.

United had their moments going forward, with Constable heading over a good chance in the first half.

Peter Leven came closest to snatching a dramatic late winner with a free-kick which flashed just wide, but it ended all square.

Constable returned to the starting line-up in one of three changes.

Harry Worley came in for the injured Michael Duberry, while Damian Batt also started as Adam Chapman and Oli Johnson dropped to the bench.

United went into the game in better form, but they were pinned back in the opening 15 minutes by a fast-starting home side.

Darryl Duffy saw one shot turned behind by a combination of Ryan Clarke and Jake Wright, before smashing another chance wide.

Clarke parried one cross from Sido Jombati out to Duffy, but the U’s goalkeeper reacted superbly to turn the striker’s header over the crossbar.

Cheltenham’s clearest chance in the opening exchanges came on 12 minutes, when Jombati’s cross found Luke Summerfield unmarked, but he headed wide.

United struggled to retain possession and carved out just one opening in the opening 20 minutes, when Dean Morgan exchanged passes with Constable and volleyed straight at Town goalkeeper Jack Butland.

After weathering the early storm, the visitors eased themselves into the game.

Their best chance of the half arrived on 25 minutes, when Constable nodded Asa Hall’s in-swinging cross just over under pressure from Butland.

United had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down three minutes before the break when Morgan appeared to be brought down by Jombati.

The referee Paul Tierney waved away the protests, much to the frustration of the 1,500 travelling fans.

Cheltenham came closest to a breakthrough on the stroke of half-time, when Pack’s curling free-kick beat Clarke but smacked the crossbar and bounced clear.

Pack also had the first opportunity of the second half, driving a first-time shot wide from 20 yards on 50 minutes.

Duffy should have made it 1-0 with the next attack, but his snap shot from close range flew wide.

United again threatened only sporadically, with Constable receiving little quality service up front.

Johnson and Cristian Montano were introduced from the bench in an effort to change the balance.

The latter nearly made a telling impact immediately, showing quick feet in the area to dance away from two challenges before his cross was blocked.

Leven curled a free-kick just wide on 71 minutes to briefly worry Butland, who had been a virtual spectator since half-time.

The game hung in the balance as both sides looked to claim a precious winner in the final 20 minutes.

Leven came within inches of a decisive breakthrough three minutes from time with another set piece which curled a whisker wide.

United looked the more likely of the two sides to score late on, but could not find a way through before the final whistle.

Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Clarke, Batt, Worley, Wright, Davis, Morgan (Montano 68), Whing, Leven, Hall, Rendell (Johnson 53), Constable Substitutes: Tonkin, Chapman, Wilson