Rotherham United moved up to fourth in the League Two table after they went through Oxford United like a whirlwind.
Four goals in just 14 minutes had the game already wrapped up at the break. Rotherham took the lead through good fortune but it was sheer ruthlessness that saw them enhance their advantage. A fortnight ago the Millers had put good use to one of their games in hand with a win at Bristol Rovers and did the same at the Kassam with a dominant display.
Inconsistency has dogged Oxford this campaign but a recent string of wins had given them an outside chance of clinching a play-off spot.
Beating the top two in League Two in their last two matches was a warning ahead of the game, as was the form of winger Alfie Potter who scored in both the wins over Gillingham and Port Vale.
It was down the opposite flank where Oxford summoned their first attempt on goal, Sean Rigg, who scored in the reverse fixture at the New York Stadium, found space and fired a shot wide across Andy Warrington.
Good passing then led to Rotherham’s first chance, Lee Frecklington slid in Ben Pringle, who skipped by a challenge before having his shot deflected into Luke McCormick’s grasp. A keener block probably would have helped to beat the keeper.
Moments after teasing Steve Evans about his waistline, the home fans were appealing for a penalty when Damian Batt prodded a ball into the box which hit Frecklington. Referee Andy D’Urso didn’t answer their pleas.
Rigg then missed a great chance for the home side. The forwards were afforded far too much space to pick their passes and when Batt found Rigg in the box, a goal seemed a formality. After taking a touch the forward wastefully blasted wide from just ten yards out. Rotherham punished them with a shot from nothing on the half hour mark. David Noble was in space and hit a hopeful shot from distance. Harmless enough at first, the shot then deflected off Andy Whing and totally deceived McCormick.
And just three minutes later Rotherham’s advantage was doubled. Pringle’s looping corner found central defender Kari Arnason towering above the defence to head just inside the far corner.
Oxford appeared shell-shocked but as Rotherham proved at Bristol Rovers when they are on top they can take full advantage of a side’s vulnerabilities.
Rotherham encouraged yet further made it three with a fine move on 40 minutes. David Noble picked out Pringle with a lovely chip, he then cut it inside for onrushing captain Johnny Mullins to fire in a powerful effort. Despite being in an unfamiliar position, Mullins finished coolly to punish the side he’d spent a loan spell at earlier on in the season.
Amazingly Rotherham got another a minute before half time. Pringle made full use of slack marking by tapping in at the far post from Alex Revell’s cross and ensured the home side were jeered off.
Despite their rampancy the Millers will still have given boss Evans a quandary to deal with at the break.
Goal difference could play a part later on in the season and with Oxford looking atrocious at the back another striker could have helped them exploit yet further.
Evans stuck with the same eleven whilst Oxford made two changes but Claude Davis limped off early on to be replaced by right-back Mark Bradley with Mullins reverting to central defence.
It could have been five when Revell flicked a header into Frecklington’s path but his tame effort was marshalled away off the line by former Miller Michael Raynes.
Comfortable Rotherham had took to hitting on the break and brought on speedy Kieran Agard to help with that purpose.
Given the excitement at the end of the first half, the second half really dragged with Oxford failing to muster any dignity. Kayode Odejayi was introduced by Evans but he did not have to make any impression on the game.
* OXFORD: (3-4-3) McCormick, Duberry (Parker), Wright (c), Raynes, Batt, Heslop (Davies), Whing (Capaldi), Davis, Potter, Smalley, Rigg. Subs not used: Crocombe, Craddock, Worley, Constable.
* ROTHERHAM: (4-2-3-1) Warrington, Mullins (c), Davis (Bradley), Arnason, Ridehalgh, O’Connor, Noble, Pringle, Frecklington, Nardiello (Agard), Revell (Odejayi). Subs not used: Thompson, Slew, Morgan.
* Attendance: 5,169
* Goals: Noble (30), Arnason (33), Mullins (41), Pringle (44).
* Ref: Andy D’Urso (Essex).