Oxford United were beaten by two goals in the final three minutes at Fleetwood this afternoon. In a wind-affected game two well organised defences dominated before Bobby Grant's low strike and an injury time effort from Jordy Hiwula gave the home side all three points.
It was tough for both sides to play football, with a very strong wind swirling awkwardly any time the ball was launched skywards. United, with Christian Ribeiro in at right back and Dwight Tiendalli returning at left back in place of Ricardinho (missing due to a calf strain), seemed to have the worst of the conditions in the first half, with the wind in their faces, but stuck manfully to their task and the home side created little in the first 45 minutes.
United, on the other hand, grew into the game. James Henry, impressive as ever, came as close as anybody to an opening goal when he threw himself at a Jack Payne cross in the 21st minute but was subtly nudged off balance by a covering defender, and then moments later it took a fantastic save from home keeper Alex Cairns to deny Wes Thomas when the striker ran clear on to a great through ball from Alex Mowatt: the best chance of the half.
The tone was being set by Ryan Ledson, ferocious in midfield and never wasting a pass as the U’s zipped the ball around neatly on the lush Highbury surface. Henry had a goalbound effort blocked by the back of Thomas on 32 as the striker tried to get out of the way inside the six yard box.
Elder statesman Tiendalli was impressive on the left, making two or three perfectly timed tackles and finding space and time to get forward and support the hard-working Mowatt on that flank. However, Cairns’ save apart, there hadn’t been many clear chances in the first 45 minutes despite United dominating possession. Trust me, a few short weeks ago we were just down the road at Blackpool. I know which first half I preferred.
A few choice words from Uwe Rosler fired up Fleetwood for the second half and Bobby Grant clipped an early effort on to the roof of the net before Simon Eastwood made a good save after an hour to tip a Devante Cole effort past the left-hand post. Mousinho, Ledson and Mowatt all made good solid blocks but the Yellows were also once again seeing plenty of the ball as they went towards the travelling Yellow Army.
It was just a question of whether either team could nick a winner. United threw on Joe Rothwell and Jon Obika to try and find that elusive goal but instead it was the home side who made the breakthrough.
With three minutes left, a corner wasn't cleared properly and Grant was on the edge of the box to fire home through a sea of legs and beat Eastwood just inside the left-hand post to find the net for the Cod Army. Injury time brought a second when sub Jordy Hiwula tapped home after United had been beaten on the counter after chasing the game
Hard to take for United, who have a terrible record against Fleetwood, never having beaten them. A point would probably been fair but we move on and next up is a break from league action and an FA Cup tie at Port Vale.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels and Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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