A Callum Camps goal in the first minute and a Paddy Madden strike in the second half sank Oxford United at Fleetwood this afternoon. Camps' early opener and Madden's thumping volley with 15 minutes to go left United still looking for their first win against the Cod Army after 12 meetings, despite them having plenty of the game after the early setback.
There can be few worse sounds than the theme to Captain Pugwash to mark a goal against you after just 46 seconds on a ground you have never won on. It was a fine strike from Camps, volleying the ball into the top left corner from the edge of the area, but given United’s record against the Cod Army it is hard to imagine a worse start.
So what do you do? Lie down and accept your fate or fight for everything and try and force your way back into the game? United took the second option, especially in the first half, and when Charlie Mulgrew brought down Matty Taylor after nine minutes they had the ideal chance to get back on level terms. Sadly, Swiss keeper Jayson Leutwiler plunged to his right and James Henry’s penalty was pushed away. United had at least rallied quickly after the early setback but that moment was to prove decisive.
Further efforts from Sam Long and loud shouts for a penalty as Olamide Shodipo was bundled over inside the area followed, and Shodipo had a spectacular volley straight at the keeper. For 46 minutes United were impressive, but it was the opening 46 seconds where the damage had been done.
It was more even after the break; the home side have pace to burn and were increasingly looking to exploit space should United commit too many men forward. Former Oxford loanee Wes Burns was always a threat down the right and Camps tried his luck with a volley that flew over the bar on the hour.
Taylor saw a drive deflect too close to the keeper and Dan Agyei and Joel Cooper were given the final quarter of the game to try and find the elusive goal, but it was the home side's sub who proved decisive when Madden, always a danger at this level, found a worrying amount of space near the penalty spot and rifled the ball expertly beyond the helpless Eastwood.
There were good moments from the visitors, as there were at the Valley on Tuesday night, but right now they just need a break to go their way.
Their record against Fleetwood now reads played 12, won 0 drawn 2 lost 10, so perhaps the expectations weren't that high at Highbury. But good halves and spirited spells are going to have to make way for points pretty soon, whatever the history and whoever the opposition.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher stats by OPTA.