LUKE McNally reflected on a special moment as his first goal in English football helped Oxford United put a difficult week behind them.

The centre back’s fifth-minute header set the U’s on their way to a 3-1 win over Fleetwood Town, despite missing a dozen players through illness or injury.

McNally was one of just 13 members of the first-team squad available for the Sky Bet League One clash, after a Covid outbreak last week forced eight to isolate.

But the 22-year-old had full confidence United could still perform with a depleted line-up and his early goal gave them the perfect start.

RATINGS: Every Oxford United player marked out of 10

McNally said: “It was a great feeling, as you could probably see.

“When it went in I didn’t know what was going on, there were a lot of emotions I suppose.

“I’m really delighted to get a goal for Oxford and put us in a good position to win the game.”

United postponed Saturday’s clash with Wigan Athletic less than four hours before kick-off due to the outbreak, but there have been no more positive tests among the playing squad since.

McNally said: “It’s been mad, I’ve never experienced anything like it.

“You’re looking at your phone, half expecting an update at different times.

“When you have so many positives you’re worried that another two or three could go down.

Thankfully, it worked out really well. We’re short of goalkeepers, but other than that we had a really strong team out.

“Once we limited them to chances we knew we had a really strong attack and that showed.”

WATCH: Highlights of last night's game

The U’s were particularly light at the back, with no senior goalkeepers and just four defensive-minded players available.

But a makeshift back line of Jamie Hanson, McNally, Sam Long and Steve Seddon performed well, albeit against a limited Fleetwood attack.

United announced the signing of Connal Trueman on an emergency goalkeeper loan an hour before kick-off and McNally felt the 25-year-old slotted in effortlessly.

The Irishman said: “It really has no impact on me, I can’t control anything he does.

“Maybe he’s a bit different, in terms of what happens with me having an effect on him.

Read also: Reaction from Karl Robinson and Connal Trueman

“I thought he was really calm, everything he saved he should have.

“He’ll be disappointed with the goal, but we all are and that’s football.”

United’s lack of defensive options meant the sight of McNally going down injured nine minutes before the break was met with a collective groan.

He got to his feet after receiving treatment and insisted he was always going to stay on the pitch.

McNally said: “There was no way I was going to come off - I’m not just saying that.

“I knew we were low on numbers and it wasn’t a time to come off.

“It was just an impact injury, I just got a shock in the nerve down the leg.

“It’ll be gone in a day or two.”

United head coach Karl Robinson, who asked McNally and Long to man-mark their opponents, added: “I thought the two centre backs were sensational.

“It must have looked strange to have the two centre backs following people all over the pitch.

“It looked quite disorganised at times, but it was the best we could do.

“When I thought I was going to lose Luke in the first half, I didn’t have a clue what to do.”