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Morecambe 1 (Threlfall 90+1) Oxford Utd 1 (Connolly 13) + Video
OXFORD United were denied a precious away victory as they conceded an equaliser in stoppage time at Morecambe.
Robbie Threlfall turned in a 91st-minute corner from close range to earn a share of the points.
It was heartbreak for United, who had taken an early lead thanks to a flash of magic in the penalty area from David Connolly.
A second goal would probably have killed the game off, but United could not build a cushion and came under increasing pressure, leading to the equaliser.
The result avoided the prospect of back-to-back away defeats, but it was a case of two costly dropped points which saw them drop out of the automatic promotion places.
Tom Newey's suspension caused a major reshuffle in United's side, as caretaker manager Mickey Lewis made five changes to the team which started the 3-2 midweek defeat at Newport County.
Scott Davies was drafted in as a makeshift left back, while centre back Sam Long came in for his first senior start. It saw David Hunt revert to right back as Matt Bevans was rested.
Further forward, Ryan Williams returned on the right in place of Deane Smalley (hamstring), with Connolly and Alfie Potter playing together up front as James Constable was deployed in left midfield.
The unfamiliar line-up made a shaky start, with Davies conceding an early free-kick which Threlfall whipped into the danger zone, but no-one could get on the end of it.
Goalkeeper Ryan Clarke was also forced to make a smart parry to keep out a low Jack Sampson effort inside the opening ten minutes.
But just as at Newport, the visitors opened the scoring with virtually their first attack.
Johnny Mullins flicked on David Hunt's long throw to Connolly, who showed real composure to spin into space and fire a shot which took a deflection on its way past goalkeeper Barry Roche.
Within two minutes it was very nearly 2-0, as Williams' cross fell to an unmarked Mullins at the back post. The defender got hold of his left-footed shot and only an excellent save from Roche kept it out.
Aside from a Potter shot which just missed the target, Morecambe largely controlled the rest of the half.
Sampson should have done better with a 19th-minute shot which was too close to Clarke after Long had missed a routine header. It was a rare poor moment for the teenager, who otherwise looked reliable.
Sampson had another chance later in the half, but he glanced a header wide after the dangerous Kevin Ellison robbed Williams.
Morecambe began the second half well and when Threlfall burst past Long and crossed for Andrew Fleming, the midfielder should have done better than blasting over wildly.
United continued to be on the back foot, but they defended stoutly as Mullins led brilliantly.
The skipper had been involved in a mix-up with Clarke which cost a goal at Newport four days earlier, but he was on hand to clear the danger when there was a similar breakdown in communication between Long and the goalkeeper.
As legs tired on the heavy pitch, the game began to stretch in the final 20 minutes.
Clarke saved well at his near post to deny substitute Tony Diagne, while at the other end another player fresh off the bench, Sean Rigg, fired over when Williams squared.
Morecambe continued to press and with six minutes left had a big appeal for a penalty turned down when Joe McGee appeared to be pushed by Long.
As the game entered four minutes of stoppage time Clarke made a brilliant save to smother a shot from Diagne.
The ball went out for a corner, though, and from the set piece Threlfall bundled in from close range to break United's resistance and earn a point.
Oxford Utd: Clarke, Hunt, Long, Mullins, Davies, Williams, Wroe, Rose, Constable, Potter (Rigg 74), Connolly (Ruffels 90).
Unused subs: Henly, Lynn, Bevans, O'Dowda, Marsh Morecambe: Roche, Beeley (Diagne 73), Parrish, Hughes, Threlfall, Kenyon (McGee 73), Drummond, Fleming, Amond (Wright 29), Sampson, Ellison.
Unused subs: Arestidou, Williams, McCready, Doyle.
Referee: David Webb (County Durham).
Attendance: 1,614 (242 visitors).
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