Uwe Rosler’s men found their shooting boots in the second half as David Ball and super-sub Ash Hunter fired Fleetwood to their first win of the campaign as they subdued a strong Oxford United side.
It was a solid, slick and stylish performance from Fleetwood as David Ball’s 50th minute left-footed curler and Ash Hunter’s angled thunderbolt just two minutes after entering the fray in the 70th minute secured Rolser’s first three points as Town boss.
Town were in the ascendancy in the first half but just failed to find a cutting edge in front of goal with striker Devante Cole wasting three gleaming opportunities as he nodded over from two yards out, just fired off target on the spin from 10-yards out and then blasted over one-on-one.
But it was a nice piece of skill from Cole that helped Town take the lead as he back-heeled the ball towards Ball at the top of the box and he bagged his second goal in as many games by sweetly curling the ball home.
And Hunter sealed the game in the 70th minute as he latched onto Ball’s neat pass to steal in on the right of the box and drilled the ball into the bottom left corner just two minutes after replacing Cole.
Unlike Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Scunthorpe when they surrendered a two goal lead there was no collapse as Town maintained their structure and stayed high under strict instructions from Rosler who even sent Ball out with a note shoved down his sock as they out-passed and out-classed a wounded Oxford side that were ready to crawl back down the M42 with their tails between their legs after Rosler’s men produced their best football since he took over from Steven Pressley just before the start of the new term.
Striker Chris Long, 21, who joined the club on a season long loan from Premier League side Burnley on Friday made his Town bow and impressed on debut.
Long partnered David Ball and Devante Cole in the front three of Rosler’s favoured 4-3-3 formation.
The forward came in for midfielder Victor Nirrenold who moved to the bench with Bobby Grant dropping back into the hole left by Nirennold on the left of the midfield trio.
That was the only change Town head coach Uwe Rosler made from the side that drew 2-2 with old Fleetwood boss Graham Alexander’s Iron side at the weekend.
While Oxford made two changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Bristol Rovers. Chey Dunklet came in at centre half for the injured Curtis Nelson (foot) whilst Sam Long who was sent off at Bristol starts his one match ban and is replaced by youngster Miles Welch-Hayes at right back.
Long made an immediate impact and looked a real danger when he got on the ball.
And the young Burnley forward used his pace to carve out the first clear-cut chance of the game in the 14th minute. He sashayed his way past a host of navy and yellow shirts on the left and sprinted towards the back line before cutting the ball back. The ball looped up off an Oxford defender and flew towards Cole who got too much contact on it and failed to hit the target as he nodded over from just two yards out.
One of Town’s other front three Ball launched an attack on the opposite flank six minutes later.
The striker fizzed the ball across the box and forced Eastwood to tip the ball away but fortuitously for the shot-stopper it fell to one of his team mates rather than one of the red and white shirts.
Magure tried his luck from distance twice as he rolled the ball past Neal’s right-hand stick and then thumped the ball straight down his throat just before Town engineered a move that should have seen them open the scoring.
Ball freed Long on the right his angled effort was parried by Eastwood and this time it fell to Cole who just blasted over from 10-yards out.
And the striker failed to hit the target with his third chance in the opening 30 minutes as Bobby Grant’s pass clipped an Oxford knee to send him through on goal but the striker snatched at the chance and blasted it over the bar.
Ball tried his luck with one of his signature chip’s from just outside the box after spotting Eastwood off his line but his effort just dropped over the bar.
Liam Sercombe hit the side netting in the 43rd minute as Oxford finally found a way to break through Town’s strong back-four unit.
Town started the brighter of the two teams in the second 45 and they finally took the lead five minutes into the new half.
Grant rolled the ball up towards Cole, who was just beaten to it by the defender, but instead of giving up he chased the ball down and back-heeled it to Ball at the top of the box. The striker picked his spot and curled the ball left-footed towards the corner and despite a diving Eastwood getting half a palm to it the ball flew into the net to give Ball his second goal in as many games.
Oxford’s Sercombe threatened but the visitors failed to find a cutting edge up top as Town pressed and pressured them from the front all the way through to the back with captain Pond making a vital header to tip the ball away from goal.
Jonsson, who was fit enough to play on with the foot niggle he picked up against Leeds United last Wednesday, was brought off for Nirennold just after the hour mark.
After good defensive work by McLaughin Town bombed forward on the counter with all three strikers sprinting towards goal with just a handful of Yellow and Navy shirts ahead of them Long slipped the ball out to Cole on the right but his final pass was poor and flew way over the heads of the on-running Ball and Long.
And minutes later Cole was withdrawn for Hunter who made an immediate impact.
Just seconds after his strike from out of the box was just deflected away from danger he was unleashed by Ball on the right of the box and he rocketed the ball across Eastwood and into the bottom right-hand corner.
Long created a couple of chances for himself before he was withdrawn for Aaron Amadi-Holloway who continues to be eased back into the fray after the broken ankle he sustained last term whilst on-loan from Wycombe at Oldham.
It was an impressive debut from the young Premier League starlet who had bags of pace, creativity and an ability to create something out of nothing.
He linked-up well with Ball, Cole and Hunter briefly before he was subbed off and Town’s attack looks a lot more menacing with him and substitutes Amadi-Holloway and Hunter also keen to make an impact.
Hunter was felled 10 yards outside the box by Welch-Hayes and Ryan whipped the subsequent set-piece wide of the left stick.
Town shut-up shop and never lost their shape as the half drew to a close as Rosler’s new-look side kept their first clean sheet of the campaign and moved up to eighth in the league.
Fleetwood: Neal, McLaughlin, Pond, Eastham, Bell, Ryan, Jonsson (Nirennold, 63), Grant, Long (Amadi-Holloway, 79), Cole (Hunter, 68), Ball. Subs: Cairns, Kip, Amadi-Holloway, Bolger, Nirennold, Duckworth.
Oxford: Eastwood, Skarz, Lundstram, Martin, Sercombe, Maguire (Rothwell, 87), MacDonald (T Roberts, 87), Hemmings, Taylor (Thomas, 65), Dunkley, Welch-Hayes. Subs: Buchel, Ruffels, Ashby, J Roberts.
Referee: David Webb (Lancashire)
Attendance: 2614 (away 395)