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Oxford United 1 (Davis 89) Fleetwood Town 2 (Crowther 28, Brown 55)
A STUNNING strike from Liam Davis was of scant consolation as Oxford United slumped to a fourth defeat in five games tonight.
The full back gave the U's some late hope by finding the corner of the net from long range.
It set up a stirring finish, when the hosts played with an urgency and intensity which had been lacking for the rest of the game, but Fleetwood had built enough of a cushion to see off the charge.
Ryan Crowther finished off a flowing move on 28 minutes to put the Cod Army in front and Junior Brown doubled the advantage ten minutes after the break.
United, who looked low on confidence, had their moments.
James Constable hit the post, while Alfie Potter and Sean Rigg also had good chances, but again the clinical touch deserted them.
Deane Smalley made his first start in more than four months, replacing the injured Justin Richards as United reverted back to 4-4-2.
The hosts' other change to the starting line-up from Saturday's 2-0 defeat to Bristol Rovers saw Alfie Potter come in for Tony Capaldi.
Melted snow had done the playing surface no favours and both sides took no chances in the first ten minutes.
When the game began to settle it was Fleetwood who looked more coherent, with the U's struggling to make an impact in possession.
One whipped cross saw Michael Raynes mis-kick his attempted clearance and the centre back was mightily relieved to see the ball fly straight to goalkeeper Luke McCormick.
United had the ball in the net on 19 minutes, when Smalley nodded in from a yard at a corner, but the referee ruled it out for a foul on Scott Davies.
The Cod Army goalkeeper made an excellent save midway through the half, denying Lewis Montrose's left-footed effort.
United appeared to be finding a foothold, but just as in Saturday they fell behind after building some momentum.
The home side's defence were caught completely cold by a move from right to left, where Crowther was waiting unmarked to steer a shot past McCormick.
United had a glorious chance to level the scores just three minutes later.
Rigg freed Potter, whose lack of confidence was visible as he turned down the chance to shoot instead of a pass which missed its target.
Howls swirled around the Kassam, but the home fans were very nearly cheering with the next attack.
Smalley flicked on for James Constable, who laid off for his strike partner to fizz a shot a whisker wide.
United made an encouraging start to the second half, with Davies saving from Potter.
But again Fleetwood hit back with purpose, doubling their lead ten minutes into the second half.
A high hanging cross was headed back across goal by Dean Howell and Brown reacted first to bundle a finish home from close range.
The tension among the home fans went up a notch as another game looked to be slipping away.
Constable came agonisingly close to halving the deficit with a run and shot which struck the post. The ball fell to Rigg, who blazed a tricky chance over the bar.
There was still half an hour to play, plenty of time to salvage something, but United badly lacked a spark.
Fleetwood were happy to sit back and soak up the pressure, as their opponents searched for some inspiration.
Jean-Michel Fontaine should have made it 3-0 on 75 minutes, but after the offside trap was spring by a neat move the striker fired wide.
Josh Parker's energy was again useful from the bench and with ten minutes left he laid on a fantastic chance for Rigg.
The winger could not find a way past Davies' legs and Raynes headed the rebound wide.
When the Fleetwood goalkeeper made a superb parry to deny Damian Batt with two minutes to go the game looked over.
But Davis injected some drama into the closing stages with a brilliant strike from 25 yards which flew into the corner.
With five minutes of time added on United suddenly came alive.
Constable had two sights of goal almost immediately, but both ended up high in the Oxford Mail Stand.
Fleetwood still had to weather another corner, but United ran out of time.