OXFORD United dug out a hard-fought point in a gritty clash with Cambridge United at a windswept Abbey Stadium.

Both sides pushed hard for a winner as the afternoon wore on, but clear chances were a rarity in a game affected by a strong wind.

Defences finished on top and United, who were already depleted by international call-ups and John Lundstram's ban, were strained even more by the loss of Johnny Mullins to injury.

With Bristol Rovers losing at Carlisle United, this was a point gained for the U's, who are certain to be in Sky Bet League Two's automatic promotion places this weekend, when they are in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final.

Lundstram's suspension forced one of United's two changes.

As expected Josh Ruffels filled in for the midfielder, while Chris Maguire came in for Danny Hylton.

The forward dropped to the bench, where young striker George Jeacock was included for the first time.

Cambridge went into the game in desperate need of points to keep their faint play-off hopes alive and they came flying out of the traps.

Skipper Luke Berry was at the heart of everything in a bright opening quarter of an hour for the hosts.

He had one shot saved by Benji Buchel, while Ruffels did well to clear just as the midfielder looked set to pull the trigger in the eighth minute.

United, playing with a strong wind at their backs in the first half, had to dig in.

They were not helped by a defensive reshuffle after only 19 minutes.

Johnny Mullins picked up a hip injury with a tackle on Harrison Dunk early in the game and despite trying to play on he eventually had to call it quits.

Sam Long was hurriedly rushed into action for his first appearance since December as United's resources were stretched even further.

The visitors had seen off the early storm, but they lacked quality on the ball and all too often through balls caught on the breeze and drifted through to goalkeeper Will Norris.

The home side came on strong again around the half-hour mark.

Jake Wright made a superb block to deny James Dunne, before James Spencer curled a shot just wide.

The striker should have scored with the next attack, inadvertently launched by a sloppy pass from Ruffels.

Cambridge sprung forward and Ben Williamson's cross was begging to be put away by Spencer, who somehow failed to make contact with his head eight yards out. Berry was well placed at the back post, but was so unprepared for his teammate to miss the ball that he could only skew over.

It was a let-off for the visitors, who despite a handful of corners late in the half will have been pleased to reach half-time still on level terms.

They immediately looked more effective playing into the breeze when the second half got under way.

Maguire came close to the opening goal with a curled shot from range three minutes after the restart.

It was the start of a promising spell for the visitors, who suddenly carried an attacking threat for the first time.

Norris did not have a save to make until midway through the half, when he got down to deal with MacDonald's low drive.

Clear chances were at a premium and when one fell to Spencer he snatched at the shot, which flew over.

Both sides looked intent on trying to win the game, which became increasingly frenzied as the clock ticked down.

At one stage there were three penalty shouts in a minute, two for Cambridge sandwiching a claim from substitute Danny Hylton.

Referee Mark Haywood shook his head each time, as the volume in the Abbey increased.

It was an enthralling finish, but neither side could create the chance they needed to claim all three points.

Cambridge Utd (4-2-3-1): Norris, Furlong, Coulson, Legge, Haynes, Clark (Simpson 75), Dunne, Dunk, Berry, Williamson (Ismail 73), Spencer.

Unused subs: Beasant, Omozusi, Roberts, Horne.

Booked: Dunne.

Oxford Utd (4-4-2): Buchel, Mullins, Dunkley, Wright, Skarz, MacDonald, Sercombe, Ruffels, Maguire, Roofe, Bowery.

Subs used: Long (Mullins 19), Hylton (Bowery 64), Waring (Maguire 77).

Unused subs: Slocombe, Ashby, Giles, Jeacock, Hylton.

Booked: Skarz, Maguire, Wright.

Referee: Mark Haywood (West Yorkshire).

Attendance: 6,108 (1,328 visitors).