Oxford United's search for a first win over Fleetwood Town will stretch to at least ten games after the ninth encounter ended with a 2-1 win for the home side this afternoon. Goals from Paddy Madden and Peter Clarke gave Joey Barton's side all three points at Highbury, despite Elliott Moore putting his side level before the break.
There wasn't much to didvide the teams in an even 90 minutes and other than an early sighter for Simon Eastwood there was little danger as the two sides settled into their work in the first half.
Shandon Baptiste, given licence to drift in from his nominal left-wing role, was a foot away from an Anthony Forde cross after seven minutes but United didn’t hit their stride in the opening exchanges and there was a certain inevitability to the home side taking the lead in the 15th minute.
Madden is a proven scorer but will not have scored many simpler ones than his finish into an empty net after the impressive Jordan Rossiter had crashed a shot against the right-hand post from the edge of the box, the ball running perfectly for Madden with Eastwood scrambling in vain to get to his feet. There had been impedence, if not an outright foul, on Baptiste in the build-up but no foul given and United were a goal down.
Fleetwood continued to create half-chances, with Wes Burns a danger and two or three efforts going wide of the mark without troubling Eastwood further, but United hung in there and grew into the game and duly earned their reward after 33 minutes, when Moore headed then back on level terms.
In truth, Fleetwood could have closed Anthony Forde down a lot quicker but instead gave him all the time and space he needed to deliver a perfect cross, which Moore met six-yards out to head past Matt Gilks and put his side level at the break.
Deservedly level after a half of two halves, United had to withstand early pressure after the break when Kyle Dempsey's runs from deep created a couple of shooting opportunites which Eastwood dealt with in typically unflappable fashion, but the space for Forde and Cadden down the right was allowing United to deliver a string of inviting crosses as they did all they could to lead at Highbury (either version) or the first ever time.
Ruffels with a back post header and Henry with a 30-yard piledriver went close, but with 11 minutes left the Cod Army netted the winner when Lewis Coyle found space to deliver from the right and Peter Clarke rose highest to head powerfully past Eastwood to make it 2-1 and win the game.
No shortage of effort once again, but effort has to start translating into points pretty soon. United applied late pressure but Fleetwood saw them off and so once again the U's return from the Fylde peninsula empty handed.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher