Southend United battled to a goalless draw against struggling Oxford United at Roots Hall.
Neither side were able to break the deadlock with Southend going closest midway through the first-half when Simon Cox rattled the underside of the crossbar and the post with a strike.
Oxford looked the more threatening in the second-period and they had a superb chance to nick the points when Ricky Holmes headed a Tony McMahon cross wide from close range.
And Oxford almost snatched it at the death when McMahon's free-kick was headed towards goal by John Mousinho, forcing a smart reaction save from Mark Oxley to ensure both sides secured a point apeice.
The result and, arguably, the performance will have been frustrating for Blues boss Chris Powell whose side went into this afternoon’s game off the back of three straight wins and would have been heavy favourites against Oxford.
Southend were looking for a fourth win in a row for the first time under Powell and following Tuesday’s win on the road at Burton Albion, the Blues gaffer made just the one change to his starting XI – replacing Theo Robinson with Sam Mantom, who skippered the side.
Blues made a bright start in miserable conditions at Roots Hall. With the rain hammering down, Southend forced a smart save from Jonathan Mitchell as early as the eighth minute as Tom Hopper’s low strike was well saved by the legs of the on-loan Derby goalkeeper.
Oxford had been in dire form in the build-up to their visit to Essex, losing five of their last six in all competitions, and they were limited to long-range efforts early on with Gavin Whyte shooting way wide from distance midway through the half.
And while the visitors failed the truly threaten, Southend went incredibly close to breaking the deadlock before the break when Jason Demetriou teed the ball up for Simon Cox. Cox’s shot rebounded off the underside of the crossbar and onto the post before Dru Yearwood blazed over.
Goalless at the break, Oxford looked threatening early in the second-half with Ricky Holmes the key instigator. The former Charlton midfielder played a near-post ball into James Henry which was stabbed away for a corner before flashing a cross across the six-yard box which couldn’t get a touch.
Oxford continued to look the most likely to break through as the second-half wore on and they went close when John Mousinho’s cross was headed just wide by veteran striker Jamie Mackie before Blues suffered a big blow by losing their top-scorer Hopper was forced off with an injury.
On-loan Bristol City striker Shawn McCoulsky replaced Hopper, but his introduction couldn’t turn the tide and Oxford should have taken the lead with 15 minutes remaining when Tony McMahon’s cross found Holmes at the far-post but the midfielder somehow nodded the ball wide.
Southend needed some sort of spark to get them going and some hustle from Yearwood helped carve out a chance all of his own making, nicking the ball off Curtis Nelson before dragging his shot wide of Mitchell’s right-hand post.
With the game looking almost certain to remain goalless, Blues fans were in uproar with 10 minutes to go when Mackie appeared to elbow Taylor Moore in the back of the head while going for the ball, only for the U’s striker to just be shown a yellow card and be subbed off moments later.
In the final minute of five added on at the end of the game, Blues had Mark Oxley to thank for keeping Oxford out after McMahon’s free-kick found the head of captain Mousinho at the far post, with Oxley having to push the defender’s header wide to ensure both sides took home a point.
Blues XI: Oxley, Coker, Turner, Dieng, Hopper (McCoulsky 73’), Cox (Robinson 82’), Yearwood, Mantom (C), Moore, Demetriou, White (Kightly 37’). Subs Not Used: Bishop, Bwomono, Klass, Hendrie
Oxford United XI: Mitchell, Dickie, Nelson, Brannagan, Holmes, Ruffels, Mousinho (C), Whyte, Henry, Mackie (Obika 83’), McMahon. Subs Not Used: Shearer, Garbutt, Hanson, Smith, Obika, Long
Referee: Craig Hicks
Assistants: Paul Lister & Stephen Finch
Fourth Official: Richard Kendall
Southend United: None
Oxford United: None
Southend United: Jason Demetriou 86’
Oxford United: Jamie Mackie 81’, Gavin Whyte 84’
Attendance: 6,670 (436 away)