Oxford boss Karl Robinson was thrilled with his team’s 3-1 victory over Fleetwood after his club’s Covid-19-related problems.
The U’s were without 13 players after seven tested positive last Saturday and others who were close contacts were forced to self-isolate.
And Robinson was only able to sign a goalkeeper, Connal Trueman, on an emergency loan from Birmingham just hours before kick-off.
But a flying start with goals after five minutes by Luke McNally, at a corner, and Cameron Brannagan, paved the way for what in the end was a comfortable win.
Although Jay Matete pulled a goal back for the Cod Army just before the break, Nathan Holland scored a third for Oxford with a brilliant individual effort after 68 minutes.
Robinson said he was indebted to his new keeper.
The Oxford United manager enthused: “I’m so proud of the players. I do love the players – though I hate them sometimes!
“Tonight we can enjoy this victory – it was a win that was truly deserved, I’m absolutely over the moon.
“Young Connal came in for me at the drop of a hat and put us in a very calm position.
“I’ve just said a massive thank you to him. He showed tremendous maturity to come in the way he did today. I had to coach him in the warm-up!
“He’s a lovely young man with loads of energy.”
Robinson says it could be a very stern challenge next up at the Kassam Stadium, however, against a Rotherham United side who are on a long unbeaten run.
“Now we have to get ready for a very big game against Rotherham at the weekend – I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s possible that some of the players who didn’t play tonight will play on Saturday.”
Fleetwood manager Simon Grayson admitted he was angry with his team’s poor defending, and frustrated that he has lost another player, with Joe Garner leaving the pitch with a shoulder injury.
He said: “We started the game really, really poorly.
“We did a lot of work on how we wanted to play, had team meetings in the morning before the game of the threats Oxford have got, regardless of all the Covid problems they’ve had.
“They had a strong team out and have got some good attacking players and we knew we had to nullify them and get tight to them. But within 10 minutes or so we’re 2-0 down.
“One was a set-piece which we should do better with – a free header in the box – and then someone runs off one of the midfield players and before you know it you’re 2-0 down.
“We can’t keep making the same mistakes, can’t keep gifting the opposition goals.
“What I will say about the players is that they dug deep and responded in the manner we needed, and showed some character and what we’re capable of doing.
“The biggest disappointment is that at 2-1 we’re in the ascendancy and we allow a player to run at us, come inside onto his stronger right foot, which we had spoken about for the last 24-48 hours, and then you’re 3-1 down and chasing the game.
“Individuals keep making mistakes and we keep getting punished.
“We’ve kept one clean sheet all season which is not good enough.
“We should be far better with individual pride and understanding your responsibilities because we work hard on the training pitch.
“I’ll never question the players’ attitude because I thought they worked really hard and never gave up, and kept going. But the decision-making and the poor defending as a team is not good enough and we have to eradicate these mistakes.
“Joe Garner has done his shoulder so we’ll assess him and see how bad that is. It’s tough at the moment, injuries-wise, results-wise but what we’ve got to do is dig deep, put tonight to bed and learn from tonight and move on to Saturday.”
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