Fleetwood Town fell to a 1-0 defeat to Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium on a brisk Saturday afternoon.
Fleetwood had the cards stacked in the game as Charlie Mulgrew received a red card after bringing Matty Taylor down as the last man early on in the game. The home side then took the lead through full-back Josh Ruffels and, even though Town pressed, they were unable to forge a comeback.
Fleetwood came close within the opening minutes when Kyle Vassell’s cross into the six-yard box was almost met by Paddy Madden, but it was just out of his reach and Oxford goalkeeper Jack Stevens was able to collect the ball.
At the other end, Mulgrew brought down Taylor in an attempt to prevent a counterattack. He was penalised for his sliding challenge and received a red card.
The hosts almost opened the scoring when Liam Kelly received the ball on the right-hand side and picked out James Henry inside the area. His strike called Alex Cairns into action for the first time, who pulled off a smart reaction to push the ball onto the crossbar.
Oxford opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark. Kelly’s deep corner was helped back into the area by Elliot Moore before Ruffels got the final touch to head home past Cairns.
The yellows forged another chance just before the break. Sam Long’s low cross into the box found Taylor who saw his strike blocked from close range. The onrushing Callum Connolly was in the way of Cameron Brannagan’s follow up effort.
The hosts had the first chance of the second half when Long carried the ball forward on the right flank. The Oxford full-back picked out Taylor at the near post but his effort didn’t find the target.
Brannagan came close to doubling his side’s lead when he received the ball from Long on the edge of the area. His optimistic effort struck the crossbar and bounced behind for a goal kick.
Fleetwood almost levelled the score against the run of play when Mark Duffy’s corner picked out Connolly at the back post, his header back across goal found Harrison Holgate who was denied by the feet of the Oxford goalkeeper.
The Cod Army continued to put pressure on the Yellows when Duffy’s looping freekick troubled Stevens who could only push the ball clear of his six-yard box, but no Fleetwood bodies were able to capitalise.
The hosts almost added to their tally when Taylor slid the ball through to Winnall whose shot struck the post. The rebound fell to substitute Dan Agyei whose shot was smothered by the approaching Fleetwood defenders.
Town XI: Cairns (GK), Andrew, Connolly, Duffy (Garner 77'), Camps, Mulgrew, Rossiter, Madden (C), Vassell (McKay 77'), Saunders (Holgate 8'), Donacien.
Subs not used: Coleman (GK), J.Morris, Sheron, Rydel.
Oxford XI: Stevens (GK), Ruffels, Moore (C), Gorrin (Winnall 63'), Brannagan, Taylor (Forde 85'), Long, Henry, Atkinson, Shodipo (Agyei 63'), Kelly (Hanson 63').
Subs not used: Eastwood (GK), Hall, Sykes.