Fleetwood Town extended their unbeaten record at Highbury after an impressive display which saw them beat Karl Robinson's Oxford United 2-1 on Saturday afternoon.
A goal in each half from Paddy Madden and Peter Clarke gave Fleetwood Town a deserved victory over Oxford United, and extended their unbeaten record at home this season. Elliot Moore replied for The U's just before the break.
On loan Jimmy Dunne made his debut in defence in the absence of Harry Souttar, who was on international duty. Kyle Dempsey replaced Harrison Biggins in midfield, his first start in the EFL since last October.
Fleetwood started brightly. Josh Morris spotted a gap in the third minute, forcing a diving save from Simon Eastwood. Oxford defended well from a teasing Madden cross in the tenth minute, with Wes Burns leaving defenders behind with a scintillating run into the penalty box after twelve minutes.
Fleetwood pressure was rewarded on the quarter hour. Jordan Rossiter’s shot hit the post and Madden followed up to sweep the ball home for his fifth EFL goal of the season.
Oxford were energised after going behind, but it was Fleetwood who continued to threaten. Dempsey looked assured in midfield and nearly added a second from distance after 22 minutes, a firm right foot shot on target. Burns fired a curling left foot shot over the bar after 26 minutes.
With most of the action at the opposite end, it was a surprise when Oxford equalised after 33 minutes. A perfect cross from Rob Dickie on the right was met by a firm header in front of goal from Moore. Ten minutes later, Chris Cadden’s curling cross just eluded Jamie Mackie at the back post. As half time approached, a niggly element crept into the game.
There were spills at each end early in the second half. Firstly, a ricochet off an Oxford defender nearly let Burns in, then Matt Gilks dropped the ball under pressure, but Dunne was on hand to clear any danger.
In a frenetic few minutes, Dempsey twice came close for Fleetwood with shots at goal. Soon after, Lewie Coyle released Burns whose strike flew over the angle of post and upright. The Welshman then glanced a near post header wide from a corner as Fleetwood pressure built once again.
Gilks looked to have denied James Henry’s header with a terrific save in the 64th minute only for the offside flag to be raised.
Dempsey continued to catch the eye with strong runs from midfield. Coyle and Burns linked after 71 minutes, Burns’s low cross just eluding Madden at the back post.
Fleetwood increased their attacking options with a double substitution which brought on Ched Evans and Ashley Hunter in the 76th minute. Ironically, it was a defender who gave Joey Barton’s side the lead within three minutes. A cross from Coyle found the head of Clarke who put it past Eastwood‘s left for his first goal in Fleetwood colours.
Burns was the sponsor’s man of the match and received a fine ovation when replaced by Biggins after 89 minutes.
Fleetwood XI: Gilks (GK), Coyle, Clarke, Dunne, Andrew, Burns (Biggins, 89), Dempsey (Evans, 76), Morris (Hunter, 76), Coutts ©, Rossiter, Madden.
Subs not used: Cairns (GK), Eastham, Sheron, Saunders.
Oxford XI: Eastwood (GK), Cadden, Ruffels, Dickie, Moore, Rodriquez, Brannagan, Forde, Baptiste, Henry, Mackie.
Subs: Stevens (GK), Halls, Fosu, Long, Mousinho, Hanson, Aygei.