City's report is now on the website. Fleetwood Town's view of the match HERE, and OxOnFootball's take on the match HERE. The Hoops are quickly back in action with a trip to the Sussex coast on Tuesday evening (08/11) for a league fixture against Worthing (k.o. 19.45).
As the cliche says, it was a game of two halves. In the first, Fleetwood played well and City looked pressured and a little nervous. In the second, both teams relaxed slightly, with the result that Fleetwood were not quite so crisp but City grew in confidence and began to play some of their best football. The 65-place gap between them, evident especially in the first twenty minutes, disappeared and City matched their hosts, doing their fans proud; but sadly, it came too late to change the result. If they had played at that level in the first half, they would probably not have lost.
Fortunately for the Hoops, Luton did not allow their loaned players to get cup-tied, which prevented recent star Carlos Mendes (who scored against United a few days earlier) from taking part. However, the Cod Army did see another first-teamer return from injury, and their Everton loanee Warrington played well, opening the scoring with a beautiful shot from outside the area.
That goal came in the middle of a shaky period for Oxford. The League One team were pressing high and winning the second balls. They were just half a yard quicker and a bit more assured on the ball, and their tight defence, one of the best in their division, was quick to snuff out any City breaks. Their passing was crisp and accurate. Had it not been for three fine saves from the excellent Dudzinski, and some sterling work by Canice Carroll, Town would have been out of sight within the first quarter of the ninety minutes. City looked especially vulnerable down the left side of their defence, from where all the Fleetwood goals and a majority of their other scoring chances in the match came. Their speedy right wing back Johnston was giving poor Lewis Coyle, played out of position, a torrid time; he set up the first goal. City fans were wondering why we had no left-footed player like our other Lewis on that side against a team who were evidently strong there. The result was that Klaidi Lolos, also being played on his weaker side, had to play deeper to help out Coyle, thereby reducing his attacking threat.
Despite this, City did gradually work their way into the game as the Fleetwood high press eased, and their confidence was rising as they approached half-time, hoping to keep the score at 1-0. We remembered what a fright we had given Notts County from that position in 2017. That was why it hurt so much to concede one minute before the break, and it was quite a poor goal to give away from a defensive viewpoint, but also a well-taken shot.
The introduction of the experienced and skilful Potter in the second half seemed to make a difference and the Hoops started to enjoy more possession and create chances. The talking point was the referee's decision not to issue a second yellow to tall defender Earl when he went into McEachran with studs up. He appeared to reach for his card pocket but then bottled it and changed his mind. Who knows whether a sending-off midway through the half would have made a difference? Some players and teams would have made a meal of it but Zac did his best to avoid injury and play the ball; maybe that influenced the decision. He is a commendably honest player. Earl was spared the red.
Some justice was done when Potter finished off an excellent move involving Zac, Joe Iaciofano and Josh Ashby, which could have set up a very anxious final ten minutes for the home side. Unfortunately for us, another quick break down our left flank led to another corner. Lane had already stretched Dudzinski with a far-post inswinger from that side, and this time it worked. It was no fluke, but a well-practised strike which deflated the City revival and effectively ended the contest.
Opponents like these reveal our relative strengths and weaknesses, and Ross Jenkins will have learnt a lot from this match. 'If only' thoughts are inevitable but no one could deny that Fleetwood were, as expected, the better team overall. They were also friendly and welcoming hosts to the ninety or so travelling fans, half of whom came on the wonderful free coach! We wish the winners well in the next round.
Meanwhile, our boys have to turn out on the opposite coast of the country without a practice in between; another tough challenge awaits them in Worthing on Tuesday, and we wish them well too. Thank you for another memorable cup run, lads.
Another excellent report - thank you. I followed the game on Radio Oxford and so wished that I had been able to make the long journey, but it wasn't to be. I still feel that City can/will have another successful season and wish them good luck tomorrow night.
Interesting to see Fleetwood have now been drawn away to Ebbsfleet. Had we won that match in the north this would not have been a very welcome Second Round fixture for us, and I suspect they will be wary of it too, as a potential banana skin for a League One side. But what an opportunity now for the NLS leaders, probably on live TV!