MATCH REPORT: Oxford 0 Fleetwood 2

Paddy Madden scores from the penalty spot
Paddy Madden scores from the penalty spot

Goals in either half from Ched Evans and Paddy Madden gave Joey Barton his first win as Fleetwood Town boss as his side staged a classic away performance at Oxford United.

Goals in either half from Ched Evans and Paddy Madden gave Joey Barton his first win as Fleetwood Town boss as his side staged a classic away performance at Oxford United.

Evans netted his first goal for the club in the 34th minute and Madden put the icing on the cake with an 88th minute penalty after Wes Burns was felled by U's keeper Scott Shearer.

But it could have been a different story had Karl Robinson's Oxford side been more clinical, Sam Smith and Jamie Mackie guilty of wasting huge chances from the hosts who faced a smattering of boos after the final whistle.

Boss Barton had made five changes to the side that lost 1-0 to AFC Wimbledon on the opening day of the season.

Defender Cian Bolger was left out of the squad with the man who missed out like week Ash Eastham back in the fold.

Midfielder Jason Holt returned from suspension to make his debut with Burnley signing Dean Marney making his first league start for the club.

Gethin Jones and Ash Hunter were also named in the starting XI as Barton moved from 4-2-3-1 to the 4-3-3 that had seen them win seven from seven in pre-season.

Barton did not just make five changes of personnel but also switched up some positions with Lewie Coyle moving over from right back to fill that problematic left defence slot.

Bobby Grant moved forward into a right forward role with Hunter on the left but the changes meant that Town could also shift into a 4-5-1 if defending.

But once again Fleetwood made a slow start and should have found themselves a goal down early doors as a big mistake by skipper Craig Morgan saw Sam Smith sprint clear. The centre half was making only his second start since 2017 after joining from Wigan this summer but his lack of match action was clear as Smith stole in but Alex Cairns has been hailed as the best in the division by Barton and he showed why with a fine stop.

Then Town showed them how it is done. The introduction of experienced duo Marney and Holt gave Dempsey a licence to thrill in the middle of the park and it was his attacking prowess that saw Town take the lead.

Dempsey cut through Oxford's defence like a hot knife through butter before sliding the ball across to Evans. The 29-year-old had failed to fire all last season for parent club Sheffield United but did not have to be asked twice to rifle home in the 34th minute and end a mammoth league goal drought.

The Blades loan star's last league goal was for Chesterfield in December 2016 but he made no mistake to score Town's first goal of the 2018/19 campaign.

Fleetwood should have put the game to bed just before the break, Hunter leading a textbook counter attack. The forward drove at the yellow shirts after Town had pressed them back and with Evans on his right and Dempsey on his left the yellow shirts were outnumbered. Hunter's precision pass saw Dempsey sprint through on goal but he faltered, falling off balance just as he pulled the trigger to scuff the ball wide of the left stick.

Oxford came out fighting in the second half but with Town's ability to slide from 4-3-3 to a more defensive 4-5-1 they restricted the hosts.

The script was written for Barton and Clint Hill's ex-QPR team mate Jamie Mackie but he fluffed his lines after finding himself unmarked at the back stick. He had outfoxed Town's defence but the unmarked forward was left kicking himself as he nodded the ball back across goal and wide of the left stick.

Aside from that scare Town spent the majority of the second half handling everything Oxford threw at them and looked more likely to score thanks to some slick counter play as they exploited the width of the pitch at the Kassam Stadium.

Marney nearly sent Holt clear after a piece of brilliant footwork at the top of the box and Evans thundered the ball wide after some slick counter play by Jones and Hunter on the right flank as Town looked for a second.

That second did eventually come in the 88th minute. The fresh legs of Burns caught Oxford napping as he stole into the box on the right and drew Scott Shearer out of goal, the keeper was drafted into the U's starting line-up at the last minute after Simon Eastwood dropped out but it was a day to forget as he felled Burns. The Welshman did not get chance to net his first of the term though, fellow substitute Paddy Madden the man given the chance from the spot and he was cool as a cucumber as he rolled the ball home.

That was enough to give Fleetwood their first win of the new league campaign as Barton's men reacted from that opening day defeat where it matters, on the pitch.

Fleetwood: Cairns, Jones, Morgan, Eastham, Coyle, Marney (Sheron, 67), Holt, Dempsey, Grant (Burns, 61), Evans (Madden, 79), Hunter. Subs not used: Jones, Spurr, McAleny, Sowerby.

Oxford: Shearer, McMahon, Nelson, Dickie, Garbutt, Ruffels (Obika, 86), Brannagan, Hall (Henry, 77), Mackie (Browne, 66), Holmes, Smith. Subs not used: Norman, Mousinho, Whyte.

Attendance: 6689 (87 Fleetwood)