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Match Reports

REPORT Fleetwood Town 2 Oxford United 3

U's win a thriller. Full time report

15 April 2022

Oxford United survived a Fleetwood fightback to pick up a crucial first ever win at Highbury this afternoon.

In a must-win game, United looked to have won it inside 16 minutes through goals from Nathan Holland, Cameron Brannagan and Billy Bodin, but Fleetwood had other ideas and launched a heroic comeback to get it back to 2-3 with over half an hour to go. United then needed to stand firm to see the job through.

The home side, with one win in 17 and a key trip to fellow strugglers Gillingham on Monday, looked nervous from kick-off and were undone when Bodin found space on the right and whipped in a low cross that evaded Matty Taylor, slipped away from Brannagan, but ran into the path of Holland, who fired a low right-footed effort back across the keeper to make it 1-0 with his sixth goal of the season.

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Four minutes later and it was 2-0 as the Cod Army again only offered flimsy defence of their net. Brannagan, once a Fleetwood loanee, powered forward in the left channel, played a wall pass off Holland and drilled the second goal across keeper Kieran O’Hara to make it 2-0 after just seven minutes.

150422 fleetwood 1st (4).jpg

Bodin was running the show and on 16 minutes, shortly after a tackle stopped him from scoring Goal of the Century, he ghosted into the area to power a header into the corner of the net from a Brannagan cross. 3-0 and surely we could all go home for Easter...

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Fleetwood simply refused to accept their fate.

There were scares when Callum Camps smashed a free kick against the United bar and Ellis Harrison drove a chance wide, but clearly Oxford fans have to hear Captain Pugwash when we go to Fleetwood and on 39 minutes his shanty celebrated Harrison’s penalty as he made it 3-1 from the spot after the striker’s shot had hit the helpless Long at close range.

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Clearly nobody had shown the home side the script, Taylor (twice), Herbie Kane and Sykes all had chances in the first half but somehow United suddenly came in danger of letting the Cod Army off the hook as they got their tails up and battered United.

It took a good save from Stevens to prevent Harrison making it 2-3 a minute after half-time before we had Game ON again after 53 minutes, as Harrison knocked the ball out of the sprawling Stevens' gloves and Cian Hayes rolled the ball into the empty net.

Next goal was going to go a long way to defining the season, either way. Ciaron Brown made a crucial intervention on 58 to clear a Hayes effort off the line as it trickled again towards the empty net, but Sykes went close after running the length of the pitch as the U's gradually began to regain their composure.

Both teams gave blood, Pilkington playing the last ten minutes swathed in a bandaged head and sub James Henry having to be replaced after the same incident.

A wonderful game of football in which Fleetwood deserve enormous credit for the spirit they showed in a seemingly hopeless situation.

But United also deserve applause: they were asked to win and they did just that, in a pressure situation and at a ground they had never even led on before, let alone won.

It's going to be tense from here on in. Three to go, you never know...

Att: 2,589

Away: 739

Report by Chris Williams, pictures Steve Daniels and Steve Edmunds, stats by OPTA


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