WHAT wouldn’t Millers followers give right now for a scrappy 1-0 away win with a scruffy goal even if the remaining 89 minutes were spent camped in their own half? Perhaps quite a lot!
No doubt the perceived theory is that games are won through teams being positive, playing attacking football with a few quality players strutting their skills.
Well, the Millers have done their best over the past five away games to dispel that one!
Again they have been involved in what, overall, was a pretty entertaining game following on from a thriller in midweek at Gillingham but they’ve again nothing to show for it except “hard luck, lads” and visiting managers saying how happy they are and that they’ve beaten one of the favourites for promotion.
Well, based on what we’ve seen in these last five away games, there is some clear evidence to now dispute that, although - when all the rage and frustration has been vented - they still remain in the thick of the scrap up there.
Runs such as this do happen. This first visit to the (three-sided) Kassam Stadium concluded a run of seven games in which five were away, and tough-looking ones at that.
Anybody who reckoned that the Millers might not suffer points-wise and place-wise after such an imbalanced run needs their head examining!
No doubt the followers of Chesterfield (at Burton), Wycombe (at Bradford City) and, most astonishingly of all, Bury at Stockport (who’ve somehow done the double over the Shakers) will all be a bit miffed and having a few doubts after this weekend.
Rotherham’s concern is that they look to have become something of a softer touch away from home. It would help, of course, if they didn’t keep falling behind, which is easier said than remedied but they seem to have spent the last five away games chasing a deficit, having plenty of possession but ultimately failing again.
What’s more, so many of those games were against opponents who went into them dreading a defeat themselves because of the sizeable gap it would have put between them and the Millers.
Once in front in the second half of those games (and Rotherham haven’t scored in any of those second halves) defensive desire and determination of the home teams not to let the lead slip has outweighed Rotherham’s attacking efforts.
If you’ve got such as Law, Randall, Daley, Le Fondre and Thomas-Moore in your side (as was the case here after the unfortunate early departure of groin victim Ryan Taylor) then you’re hardly equipped to sit back and soak up pressure. It’s attack-minded. But, defensively, they are being exposed away from home.
No doubt some of those grumbling at these away results were the same ones who grumbled when Ronnie Moore returned because they said his teams consisted of big, strong players and it was all long ball.
Well, not in the last five away games it hasn’t been - and no doubt they wouldn’t have minded some of that strength and a bit more directness too or, rather, less elaboration in attacking areas.
No attacker has scored in any of these five successive away defeats (Nicky Law has scored both the goals) despite all the attacking, and Le Fondre is certainly finding that his reputation is going ahead of him.
Shortly after Andy Warrington stopped James Constable putting Oxford in front, new left-back Callum Kennedy misjudged his challenge on Jack Midson right on the touchline and a chance was set up that former Barnsley midfielder Simon Heslop tucked neatly away.
By then Rotherham had lost Ryan Taylor to a groin injury. Omar Daley come on to play on the left of a front three with Law tucked in behind but for a spell after the goal Rotherham looked disjointed.
The equaliser on 36 minutes certainly boosted them, Daley spotting Law’s run into the area for a neat finish.
The way they started the second half was promising to say the least.
Oxford looked to have a vulnerability about them but they certainly defended well when it mattered inside their area, as shown by Wright, twice, and Worley with tremendous blocks, but nothing better than the one from right-back Purkiss as Law, set up by Thomas-Moore’s smart back-heel, pulled the trigger.
By then the Millers were behind and not a debut to remember for Kennedy whose arm-tug on Steve MacLean was a penalty and an inevitable red card.
MacLean got lucky from the spot, his penalty blocked by Warrington diving to his left only for the ball to spin back across goal and go in by the right-hand post.
Bravely, the Millers left three at the back as they tried to pull it back and Oxford should have polished them off several times, Constable going clean through with Warrington touching his shot wide and then - putting the Gillingham head injury out of his mind - twice going down at the same player’s feet.
Le Fondre almost cashed in on a fine ball from Mullins (and expected a penalty after clashing with the keeper) and Daley fired over the top with the home defence scrambling as the 10 men had a go.
But, by the end, you got the feeling you’d seen this before - frantic late attacking failing to overcome desperate defending, with the home crowd cheering every clearance and then roaring on a breakaway.
To rub it in, Rotherham saw Oxford go eighth and close the gap between them to four points - when it could have remained at seven or even gone to 10 in Rotherham’s favour!
Their heads were down afterwards but I thought it was a fantastic effort. We had 10 men for the last half-hour and we were brave, went 3-4-2 and went for it.
Yes, Oxford had chances but I can’t fault the effort and commitment the players put in.
I certainly can’t remember losing five away on the trot as a manager. We changed to 4-3-3 because we felt we could cancel them out and we had enough to hurt them.
We got punished for a lack of concentration and experience on the penalty. Callum Kennedy looked good on the ball but he was involved in both goals really.