Burton Albion returned from the Kassam Stadium with a welcome away point after a thrilling comeback brought them back from two goals down in the second half against Oxford United. when Peter Leven put the U's 2-0 up on 54 minutes the game looked to be heading for the same sort ot outcome as last season's corresponding fixture when the home side ran out convincing winners. However two goals from former U's striker Justin Richards, the first a penalty two minutes after the second Oxford goal silenced the home crowd and ensured a precious away draw.
Brewers boss Paul Peschisolido named an unchanged side following the victory last weekend against Plymouth Argyle. Injury continued to prevent winger Cleveland Taylor and striker Greg Pearson from returning to the squad although there was good news for recent signing Billy Kee who was declared fit to play following a head injury picked up on international duty. The former Torquay striker took his place among the substitutes. Albion's striking options were improving on the bench with Adi Yussuf also offering firepower from the bench.
Albion were quickly on the attack and had the first shot of note inside 30 seconds. Aaron Webster's long throw down the line was flicked inside by Justin Richards and Jimmy Phillips burst through past the defence but his low shot went just wide of the far post.
The Brewers continued to look sharp in the opening stages and it took a little while for Oxford to get into their stride. The hosts began to try and use the wide expanses of the Kassam pitch to their advantage but Albion stifled most of the U's early attacks. Oxford really should have been ahead in the 12th minute though as a period of pressure in and around the Albion penalty area resulted in Lewis Guy finding himself in space inside the six yard box. The striker showed great composure to bring the ball down but was amazed to see Ross Atkins pull off a stunning close range save to deny him.
Albion were getting pegged back more and more but a free kick won by Zola following a hack at his ankles by Michael Duberry gave Albion a chance to nick a goal but John McGrath's teasing ball across the six yard box was just too high for everyone trying to get a vital touch.
The Brewers were close again in the 21st minute. Good link up play involving Adam Bolder and Zola set up a shooting opportunity for Phillips who had keeper Ryan Clarke beaten but his shot went wide of the post again.
A well worked free kick for Oxford almost gave them the lead in the 23rd minute. The ball was dinked into the six yard box and when the ball broke for James Constable on the angle he beat Ross Atkins but was frustrated to see Adam Bolder clear the ball off the line.
Oxford were forced into a change after 25 minutes with right back Andy Whing replaced by Damian Batt.
There was more danger for Albion in the 29th minute as Oxford launched a route one attack. Alfie Potter switched to the left to hook in a teasing high centre and Constable got up above Ryan Austin to send a header just over and onto the roof of the net.
Aaron Webster picked up the first yellow card of the game on the half hour after a challenge on substitute Batt that left both players in a heap.
Potter was continuing to be a thorn in Albion's side and he produced another moment of danger in the 35th minute. Getting the better of Austin he delivered a teasing ball across the penalty area that eluded everyone in a yellow shirt.
Jacques Maghoma went close in the 38th minute. Again it came from a set piece as Justin Richards was bundled over. The orignal ball into the box was only half cleared and the midfielder worked a shooting opportunity on the edge of the box that just went wide of the upright.
The Brewers had a lucky escape as half time approached. Batt and Potter worked another opening down the right and when the latter played the ball across the ball careered off Andy Corbett and smacked the post before coming out and allowing the Brewers to eventually clear their lines. It was an escape that did not last for long as the U's grabbed the lead in first half stoppage.
Paul McLaren's ball in was headed on by Duberry and POTTER was on hand to turn and fire the ball across Atkins and into the far corner of the net. In truth it was a goal that had been coming for a while but it was a huge disappointment for the Brewers who would have wanted to get t half time on level terms.
Half time: Oxford United 1-0 Burton Albion
Albion made a bright start to the second half but it was a long range effort from Liam Davis, forcing a good save from Atkins that proved to be the first goal threat of the second period. It was the prelude to a spell of Oxford pressure and they doubled their lead on 52 minutes. As the ball ricocheted in the midfield the ball eventually got played through to Peter Leven who steered a left foot shot past Atkins as he came out to narrow the angle.
Just as it looked as though the game might get away from the Brewers they were thrown a lifeline in the 54th minute. Jacques Maghoma went down in the box under a challenge from Laim Davis and Justin RICHARDS confidently stepped up to send Ryan Clarke the wrong way and halve the deficit.
Duberry almost restored the U's two goal advantage when he got on the end of a free kick sending the ball onto the roof of the net. On 59 minutes Albion made their first change with Billy Kee coming on for Calvin Zola to freshen up the Albion attack for the last half hour.
The home crowd were silenced on 66 minutes as Albion found an equaliser. John McGrath's corner was not dealt with and RICHARDS was lurking at the far post to turn and hit a low shot towards goal. The ball seemed to take a deflection, possibly off Kee but the man who spent a period at loan at the Kassam was more than happy to celebrate another goal against his former club.
Richards then squandered a chance to complete a hat-trick firing wastefully over before Maghoma played him through for a second chance, keeper Clarke doing well to beat out a driven shot after he and defender Jake Wright had made a bit of a hash of trying to clear their lines.
Adi Yussuf prevented Richards from completing his hat-trick when he was introduced as a substitute with eight minutes of the match remaining.
Oxford began to press Albion back in the closing stages and at times it was like the alamo with defenders having to throw themselves in to keep the scores level. The normally deadly James Constable wasted a glorious chance to put the U's back ahead in the 86th minute. A teasing angled cross from Davis found him unmarked at the back post but with the goal at his mercy he failed to keep the ball down and headed over the bar.
OXFORD: Clarke, McLaren (Hall, 63), Duberry, Wright, Heslop, Constable, Potter, Whing (Batt, 25), Leven, Davis, Guy (Pittman, 76). Substitutes: Payne, Worley.
ALBION: Atkins; Corbett, James, Austin, Webster; Phillips, Bolder, McGrath, Maghoma; Richards (Yussuf, 82), Zola (Kee, 59). Substitutes: Poole, Palmer, Blanchett.
Referee: Mr. K.A.Woolmer (Northamptonshire)
GOALS: Oxford - Potter (45+2), Leven (52); Albion - Richards (54 pen, 66)
Attendance: 8,043 (260 away)