Burton Albion are still searching for their first home league victory over Oxford United as the visitors secured a point from Alfie Potter's second half equaliser after Adam Bolder's second goal of the season had given the Brewers a 13th minute lead. It was the typical game of two halves as Albion produced arguably their best 45 minutes for some time before Oxford changed their approach in the second period to counter a buzzing Burton side who were perhaps disappointed to not be further ahead at the break.
Albion went with a different formation for the visit of Chris Wilder's men. Adopting a 4-1-2-3 set-up allowed Lee Lucas to make his debut after joining on a loan deal from Premiership side Swansea City. He adopted the holding midfield slot with Adam Bolder and John McGrath just ahead. With Justin Richards missing out through an ankle knock picked up in training it meant a front three of Calvin Zola flanked by Jacques Maghoma. With Tom Parkes having returned to parent club Leicester City the way was clear for Aaron Webster to return after injury.
The formation in some ways matched Oxford who came into the game employing a 4-3-3 formation of their own and after some initial sparring between the two sides it was midfielder Peter Leven who saw a header go wide of the post after a cross from James Constable.
Burton made a bright start and came close to opening the scoring in the 13th minute. A raking pass from Maghoma found Callum Driver on the right. His cross eluded Calvin Zola in the middle and fell for John McGrath who forced a good save from Ryan Clarke. Froma resulting corner Albion maintained the pressure and an incisive pass from McGrath freed Gurrieri and he skipped past a defender before pulling the ball back for Adam BOLDER to drill a low deflected shot into the back of the net.
Albion continued to play a pacy and vibrant attacking game and it almost produced a superb moment as Maghoma burst into the box only to be thwarted by an excellent challenge from Liam Davis that left both players requiring treatment.
Worryingly for Albion Aaron Webster went down on the half hour with what looked like a hamstring injury and two minutes later he had to succumb to the injury with Andy Corbett coming back into the side in the slightly unaccustomed left back role.
Oxford briefly raised their game to win a corner on the left but their frustration was evident when Simon Heslop tried his luck and was a long way off target. Jon-Paul Pittman was a lot closer with a low drive from inside the penalty area that was excellently blocked by Nathan Stanton as Albion showed their determination to hold on to their lead. The half ended with James Constable talking his way into the referee's book after a long discussion with man in the middle Andy Haines.
Half time: Burton Albion 1-0 Oxford United
Oxford made a change at the break giving a debut to their new signing Oli Johnson with midfielder Asa Hall the man who failed to reappear for the second half.
It was the Brewers though who continued to make the running and Maghoma saw a chance to shoot on 50 minutes but his angled effort from distance went wide of the post faioling to trouble Clarke in the Oxford goal.
The visitors hit back though and the dangerous Alfie Potter was allowed to make a pacy run across the pitch to the edge of Albion's area before hitting a low skidding shot that Ross Atkins got a touch to conceding a corner which was eventually cleared. The little winger brought his team to life and Oxford saw hope after what had been a frustrating mAtch for them so far.
It was no surprise then when POTTER equalised on 59 minutes. The dangerman picked up the ball outside the penalty but quickly jinked his way inside and mesmerised the Brewers defence with his quick feet before picking his spot in the far corner of the net from close range.
Potter quckly had a chance to net again but this time blazed over as the ball fell to him after what looked suspiciously like a handball by Callum Driver. The visitors were in the ascendency now and Constable then drilled a low angled drive wide of the far post as Albion reeled.
The Brewers second change of the game came with twenty minutes to go and saw Chris Palmer brought into the action replacing Andres Gurrieri. Tyhat was quickly followed four minutes later by Adi Yussuf getting another chance to impress as he replaced Calvin Zola after another hard working shift from the Congolese front man.
the ex-Leicester trainee was quickly involved with a low shot that was scuffed and easy for Clarke and at the other end Atkins was grateful that a diving headser from Peter Leven was straight into his midriff as he connected with Constable's cross.
Ryan Austin picked up a yellow card for a scrappy challenge on Pittman as the two fought for the ball down near ther corner and it gave the visitors a chance to put in a dangerous free kick but underneath his crossbar Atkins held on safely.
Both sides were going for the three points and Ryan Austin was close with a far post header as Clarke failed to collect and at the other end Potter was close to profiting as Callum Driver dithered but Atkins dropped onto the loose ball.
As time ran out Albion had two good opportunities to snatch the points but Adam Bolder's back post header from a booming Chris Palmer free kick was more away from goal that towards it and Yussuf saw a chance of glory with an angled effort that rippled the side netting. It was the last meaningful chance and meant that both sides had to settle for a hard earned point.
ALBION: Atkins; Driver, Stanton, Austin, Webster (Corbett, 34); Lucas; Bolder, McGrath; Maghoma, Zola, Gurrieri (Palmer, 69). Substitutes: Yussuf, Taylor, Phillips.
OXFORD: Clarke, Duberry, Wright, Heslop, Constable, Pittman, Hall, Potter,Whing, Leven, Davis. Substitutes: Tonkin, McLaren, Johnson, Worley, Fletcher.
Referee: Mr. A.Haines (Tyne & Wear)
GOALS: Albion - Bolder (13); Oxford - Potter (59)