Oxford United 3 Fleetwood 1: Depleted U's inflict more torment on Town

Fleetwood Town failed to capitalise on Oxford United's injury and illness crisis as they crashed to defeat after a nightmare start at the Kassam Stadium.

Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 10:25 pm

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Fleetwood Town failed to capitalise on Oxford United's injury and illness crisis as they crashed to defeat after a nightmare start at the Kassam Stadium.

Oxford, whose game at Wigan on Saturday was postponed after seven of their players tested positive for Covid-19, were without 13 players, many of them having to isolate.

Jay Matete bursts through to score for Fleetwood but it was little consolation at Oxford

With none of their senior keepers available, Oxford had gained permission to recruit an emergency loanee and Connal Trueman arrived from Birmingham City on the day of the game.

Fleetwood boss Simon Grayson made two changes to the side beaten by Morecambe on Saturday, with Harrison Biggins and Max Clark replacing Harrison Holgate and Shayden Morris.

Town had lost just once in 13 previous meetings with Oxford, and that defeat came in January this year.

But they made the worst possible opening here, finding themselves two goals down in just 13 minutes.

From the home team's first corner, taken by Herbie Kane in the fifth minute, centre-back Luke McNally's flicked header sent the ball into the net off the far post.

That early breakthrough gave Oxford's players confidence and belief, and eight minutes later Fleetwood's defence allowed former Town loanee Cameron Brannagan time on the edge of the area to control the ball and send a low drive past Alex Cairns into the left corner.

It didn't get any better after that for Grayson as Town then lost Joe Garner to a shoulder injury in the 19th minute, the striker being replaced by Morris.

The visitors managed their first threatening attack when Jay Matete's cross from the right proved just out of reach for Paddy Lane.

Billy Bodin shot over for the U's, but Town responded when Dan Batty's effort was punched out by Trueman, and Clark fired his follow-up drive over.

There was more conviction about the Cod Army's attacks as the first half progressed and four minutes before the break they reduced the deficit.

With home full-back James Hanson lying on the ground injured, Matete raced into the box and prodded a shot past Trueman for a fine individual goal, his first in the league for Fleetwood.

Lane had an effort saved by Trueman early in the second half, and Cairns denied Gavin Whyte at the other end as the game opened up.

Whyte's running caused problems, and after the Northern Ireland international burst through the middle to reach the ball ahead of Cairns, Steve Sheddon shot over the bar from a good position.

But after this let-off for Grayson's men, Oxford effectively put the contest out of reach on 69 minutes.

Nathan Holland cut in from the left past three defenders and hit a sweet shot past Cairns, the ball again going in off the post.

Grayson made a double substitution, replacing Clark and Tom Clarke with Ged Garner and Holgate in one last throw of the dice.

Morton side-footed wide from four yards out when the ball came to him quickly from an overhead kick in a crowded penalty area.

But Fleetwood struggled to create another good chance, leaving Town with one League point from their last six games and without a win in eight matches in all competitions.

They remain third-bottom and with games in hand on the teams around them, but with all of Oxford's off-field problems, Grayson will surely have hoped for much more.

Oxford Utd: Trueman; Hanson (Agyei 79), McNally, Seddon, Long; Henry, Kane, Brannagan; Bodin (McGuane 66), Whyte, Holland (Cooper 90); Subs not used: Brearey, Goodrham.

Fleetwood: Cairns; Biggins, Callum Johnson, Clarke (Garner 71), Andrew, Clark (Holgate 71): Matete, Batty, Lane; J Garner (Morris 19), Morton; Subs not used: Crellin, McLaughlin, Edmondson, Carl Johnson.

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