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Karl Robinson hails Oxford’s ‘appetite and desire’

Karl Robinson’s side were forced to hold on for a win (Nigel French/PA)
Karl Robinson’s side were forced to hold on for a win (Nigel French/PA)

KARL Robinson was quick to forgive his Oxford players for a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance that saw them escape Fleetwood with a 3-2 win.

The U’s stormed into a 3-0 lead inside the first 16 minutes, courtesy of goals by Nathan Holland, Cameron Brannagan and Billy Bodin.

But they were dragged back to 3-2 by the relegation-battling Cod Army and had to hold out under intense pressure.

And Robinson was delighted by their determined showing, despite being second-best for the entire second half.

“It’s all about three points on the board at this time of year,” he said. “We’ve been scintillating in the last three games and got nothing for it in any of them.

“Here we were horrific in the second half and we’ve got three points. But that’s football for you.

“They will probably say they deserved a point and maybe they did today. Today my players’ appetite and desire in a horrific, scrappy affair was sensational.

“Anyone who says we’re bottling that side of it will see we’ve got a lot more bottle than people think. We’re not a weak-minded group of people, we’ve got a lot about us.

“People forget that Fleetwood are fighting for their lives, they’re fighting to stay in this league, so you know we were always come up against that and looking at the way we saw the game out, I’m absolutely over the moon.

“We’re going back down south with the three points and we maybe don’t deserve it. We were brilliant for 35 minutes, probably the best we’ve been this season, then we were well below-par for the second half. I promise you I’ll have a smile from one ear to the other going home.”

While Robinson was all smiles, Fleetwood boss Stephen Crainey was left to reflect on his side’s dreadful start that gave them a mountain to climb.

Although they almost pulled off a sensational fightback, Ellis Harrison’s penalty and a first senior goal for Cian Hayes weren’t enough to prevent Fleetwood slipping into the relegation zone.

And, ahead of two huge relegation clashes against Gillingham and Wimbledon, he said: “In any game of football you can’t give a team a 3-0 lead, especially a team like Oxford who are up there pushing for the play-offs, they’re a good side.

“We reacted too late but in the end I think we deserved something out of the game with the mentality that the group showed. In the last 15 minutes of the first half we started getting on top and we said to them that if we got the next goal we had a really good chance of getting something out of the game.

“We did that then we had a few efforts on goal but we never got that lucky break in front of goal to get the equaliser.

“We conceded three sloppy goals and never really made them work for them. We have to show more intensity from the first minute at Gillingham and that’s what we’re going to do, I’ll make sure of that. We need to go there and win, it’s as simple as that.

“We need to keep showing that fighting spirit, they showed real grit and determination to come back so I feel sorry for them not to have got something from the game.”