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Bradford City 2 (Fagan pen 56, Hanson 67) Oxford United 1 (Hall 72)
A BATTLING performance with ten men was in vain as Oxford United slipped to defeat at Bradford City.
Damian Batt picked up two bookings in the first half, leaving the visitors a man down for 50 minutes.
Craig Fagan opened the scoring from the penalty spot after the break and when James Hanson made it 2-0 the game looked over.
Asa Hall’s drive 18 minutes from time gave the U’s belief, but despite a brave effort late on they tasted defeat for only the second time in 16 games.
New loan signing Dean Morgan came straight in for his debut, replacing Oli Johnson in the only change to the starting XI from Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at Shrewsbury Town.
The U’s goal led a charmed life in the opening 10 minutes as the hosts flew out of the traps.
A long throw caused problems in the fifth minute, as Fagan’s header hit Batt on the hand and when the striker collected the rebound Michael Duberry blocked on the goal line.
Goalkeeper Ryan Clarke was quickly called into action, parrying Nakhi Wells’ shot and then getting up to superbly block Will Atkinson’s follow-up.
United gradually got into the game, with Morgan looking bright in possession.
The loan signing created the visitors’ first chance, crossing for Scott Rendell to flick a shot straight at City stopper Jon McLaughlin.
Lee Holmes was also lively on the other flank and he stretched McLaughlin midway through the half with a curling shot from 25 yards.
City had the ball in the net on 24 minutes as Fagan pounced when Clarke spilled Kyel Reid’s shot, but the celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.
The U’s task got tougher five minutes before the break, when Batt received his marching orders. Booked early on for a crude tackle on Reid, the full back clumsily fouled the same player to stop a City counter-attack.
Rendell had a great chance to open the scoring for the ten men early in the second half, but he headed Holmes’ cross wide of the near post.
City quickly reasserted themselves, with Lee Bullock and Nakhi Wells heading openings off target.
The U’s were riding their luck when Whing deflected Wells’ shot on to the post, but within seconds the defender conceded a penalty for an ill-advised lunge on the same player.
For once Clarke was unable to bail out United as Fagan’s spot kick found the top corner on 56 minutes.
A long ball almost yielded an equaliser midway through the half. Adam Chapman forced a hurried clearance from McLaughlin straight to Holmes, but the goalkeeper made amends with a clean sliding challenge outside his area.
City promptly broke down their left flank and Reid’s cross was headed in at the back post by Hanson.
The U’s were given hope five minutes later, when Hall collected Whing’s pass and drove a shot through McLaughlin and into the net.
The goal brought the visitors to life and the game grew increasingly stretched as the ten men searched for an equaliser.
Harry Worley was used as a makeshift centre forward, but McLaughlin was relatively untested in a tense finale.
City came closest to snatching a goal in the closing stages, when Hanson’s shot was deflected just over Clarke’s crossbar.
Oxford (4-3-3): Clarke, Batt, Duberry, Wright, Tonkin (Davis 70), Chapman (Worley 84), Hall, Whing, Holmes, Rendell (Johnson 68), Morgan
Unused substitutes: Brown, Wilson
Sent off: Batt
Attendance: 10,059 (420 Oxford)