MATCH REPORT: Oxford 0 Fleetwood 1

They say that sometimes you cannot script football but boy that Tuesday night thriller was a carbon copy classic.

Tuesday, 10th April 2018, 8:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th April 2018, 3:11 am
John Sheridan

0-0 in a relegation dog fight, end-to-end but one that should have been been grasped by Oxford.

Oxford the underdogs yet to win under new manager Karl Robinson, would he get his day against John Sheridan's resurgant Fleetwood?

No. You know why?

That small quirk on the team sheet.

Conor McAleny has been a regular starter under Sheridan's previous eigth game rule but after the Town boss was unhappy with the chances created at Rotherham he and strike partner Paddy Madden had to watch on from the bench at his old stomping ground

But after 65 minutes he was let off the leash and after watching his replacement Bobby Grant squander a golden opportunity and his ex-team mate Wes Thomas also waste an abundance of chances the stage was set.

For the Kassam Stadium is a place that Conor McAleny knows where the net is and he broke his duck under Sheridan with a statement goal.

One chance, one goal and my was it a beauty, it was a thundering strike, out of nowhere out of nothing and a statement of the clear Championship and above class that Town know they have in McAleny.

He is back and where else would he prove it than at a club he lit up on-loan last term.

But he chose Highbury and now he secured Fleetwood's safety and in some fashion.

Though it was far from a three points Town deserved.

But football is cruel and McAleny showed just why he is paid the big bucks.

Fleetwood boss Sheridan made three changes to the side that lost 3-2 at Rotherham at the weekend.

McAleny, Madden and skipper Pond made way for Grant, Jordy Hiwula and full-back Gethin Jones with Ash Hunter moving up to a top diamond free role as Sheridan opted for a 4-4-2 diamond formation.

Both sides started strongly in what was to be an electric affair.

Though the closest Town would come was Grant firing a short corner wide after they had won a succession of set-pieces.

Surprisingly given Town's weakness at left back Oxford targeted the right back birth, more surprising given Jones' last start was against Karl Robinson in their 0-0 draw at Charlton though the new oxford boss urged his players to ask questions of Coyle instead

Alex Mowatt came closest with an effort from outside the box but it was Oxford forward Wes Thomas who was the big thorn in Town' side he asked questions of both Eastham and Bolger who had been restored to a back four but both were on hand with some heroic blocks to keep him at bay.

As the half wore on Fleetwood absorbed Oxford's pressure and finally got forward themselves with Hiwula doing what he does best, forcing the opposition into an error as he pounced on a loose ball at the back but ex-Town man Cameron Brannagan was on hand to save his new club.

Though it was 0-0 at the break it had been an enthralling first half and Oxford went for the jugular in the second half.

They had clearly done their homework having watched how Rotherham slayed Town by piling bodies forward.

But they did not have the same top six mentality and would be left ruing an opening minute chance.

The hosts should have taken the lead just after the break as Rothwell carved open Town but he opted to selfishly go for goal rather than tee up Thomas for a tap in.

Oxfprd kept the pressure on but that left room for the counter and it was Fleetwood's turn to let a huge chance slip away.

Grant pounced on a tame back pass but he was in two minds as he sprinted through with Hiwula for company.

Probably thinking of that earlier chance he looked up and saw Hiwula and in turn his shot was a mix of a cross too as it was gobbled up by Eastwood.

Dempsey got closer for Fleetwood as he made a sterner test than he did in the first half with a long range effort that was comfortably saved by Eastwood as he made the keeper work with a screaming strike.

Fleetwood struggled against physicality at Rotherhamn and Robinson sent another burly forward in Obika to test Fleetwood's tiring back line and accompany thomas who had been a major threat

Cairns caught Oxford napping rolling a quick ball to Dempsey and than over to Hunter who whipped the ball over to Grant at the back stick but he nodded the ball straight to Eastwood.

Sheridan refreshed his strikers in the 65th minute with Madden and McAleny replacing Grant and Hiwula

But despite the fresh fire power it was still Oxford in the ascendancy.

Thomas was released by a loose pass by Dempsey in Town's half and Eastham was left for dead by the forward but cairns was on hand to rescue fleetrwood

Dickie nodded the ball down and onto the crossbar from the subsequent set-piece as Cairns kept Fleetwood into the game with another save, though one not noted by the referee who controversially gave a goal kick.

Dempsey was soon hauled off after that loose pass with Glendon senjt on in his place for the final 20.

Town had another chance on the counter as they absorbed Oxford's attacks as Sowerby and Hunter queued up though Sowerby bundled a Madden cross straight at Eastwood.

Up the other end the ball flew across the face of goal but Ledson somehow failed to connect at the back stick

A Mowattt set-piece was slammed straight into the wall and then the Oxford man fired over but Hunter saw a set-piece tipped away as both went for the win.

Thomas saw another effort just fly past the post but McAleny was to pop up and show him how it was done in the dying stages with a sublime solo strike.

One chance, one goal, Fleetwood's safety securted - easy life this saviour lark.

Fleetwood: Cairns, Coyle, Eastham, Bolger, Jones, Dempsey (Glendon, 72), Diagouraga, Sowerby, Hunter, Hiwula (Madden, 65), Grant (McAleny, 65). Subs: Neal, Biggins, Burns, Pond, Glendon, Madden, McAleny.

Oxford: Eastwood, Ledson, Thomas (Kessell, Brannagan, Dickie, Rothwell (Ruffles, 78), Kane, Ricardinho, Mowatt, Mehmeti (Obika, 60), Mousinho. Subs: Shearer, Nelson, Martin, Ruffels, Napa.

Referee: Brendan Malone