The sun was rising slowly in Chris Wilder's brave new dawn as the U's fell to defeat in his first match in charge at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium.

A terrible start, in which they conceded two goals in the first 17 minutes, gave United too much to do, although they went on to dominate the rest of the match.

Teenager Sam Deeering pulled a goal back early in the second half but was minutes later strethered off following a bad late tackle.

Oxford United fans turned out in fantastic numbers for this Boxing Day fixture, with more than 1,200 making the journey to south Wiltshire on a freezing-cold afternoon.

The game had to be delayed ten minutes because there were so many of them wanting to get in, and there were more U's followers at the game than Salisbury fans.

Wilder began with an orthodox 4-4-2 line-up that had Joe Burnell and Matt Day as the fullbacks, and Chris Willmott lining up alongside Luke Foster in central defence.

It was a big test for Willmott, with caretaker manager Jim Smith having preferred a three-man central defence to protect him. Adam Murray was back as captain, having reliquished the armband under Darren Patterson.

There was a scintillating break in the opening minute from Oxford, begun by James Constable freeing Lewis Haldane on the left. Haldane showed good pace to get past Salisbury's right back, and when his cross came over, Constable hit it first time, but over the bar.

However, disaster struck for the visitors moments later at the other end, when a left-wing corner by Liam Feeney was flicked on by Tim Bond, and Charlie Griffin had the simplest of tasks to head in from five yards.

It was desperately poor marking by the U's.

Too many times, in the early stages, United's attackers were caught offside.

Haldane, though, looked sharp, and his burst of speed was too much for Scott Bartleyy, earning him a booking.

In the 17th minute, quick footwork by Feeney took him past Willmott and gave him space to cross to the near post where Charles Ademeno turned it in from four yards, with Billy Turley, expecting it to go the other way, wrong-footed.

Miway through the first half, James Constable nicked the ball past goalkeeper James Bittner, who clipped him to send him sprawling. The U's fans behind that goal clamoured for a red card, but the ref chose only to speak to Bittner, not even producing a yellow card.

Luke Foster's far post header from Adam Murray's subsequent free kick almost went over the line, but Salisbury's desperate defenders managed to turn it over the bar for a corner.

United continued to apply strong pressure, and Constable beat two men as he cut inside, 14 yards out, but he screwed his left-footed shot wide of the near post.

Constable was looking a real threat, nevertheless, and he went close twice more to pulling a goal back, first with another shot after some lively play, and later with a header when he just didn't get enough on it, and Bittner was able to gather.

Much of Oxford's problems had come at right back, where Joe Burnell was playing in what wasn't his normal position, so it came as nor surprise when Wilder made a change at half-time and it was to bring on James Clarke, pushing Burnell up into midfield.

Twice United broke clear at the start of the second half and it seemed only a matter of time before they scored.

Deering forced a good save from Bittner, and Jamie Guy overhit his cross from, the right with Constable waiting in the middle.

But ten minutes into the second half, Deering did find the target. Constable broke clear but saw his shot parried by Bittner and Deering followed it up with a chipped shot into the unguarded goal.

Moments later, sadly, Deering was stretchered off after a late challenge on him by Luke Ruddick. Turley raced 40 yards to protest, and was booked for doing so, but the ref, despite standing very close to the incident, didn't even produce a card for Ruddick's bad foul.

A terrific break down through the middle by Haldane almost brought United an equaliser. He took on and beat two players but the cross was cut out.

By now it was all Oxford. Yemi Odubade, who had replaced Deering, drove across the face of the goal, his shot missing he far post by inches, and a back-header by Haldane was nodded off the line by Bond.

Salisbury had one golden chance to make it 3-1 in trhe closing minutes when United got in a real mess at the back, Murray's clearance striking Willmott. Feeney was left with only Turley to beat, but shot over from 16 yards.

Oxford Utd: Turley; Burnell, Willmott (Fisher 90), Foster, Day, Deering (Odubade 59), Murray, Trainer (Clarke h-t), Haldane, Guy, Constable. Subs not used: Hinchliffe, Evans.

Att: 2,416 (1,241 from Oxford).