Oxford United 2 Rotherham United 1: Match Report

Oxford United FC v Rotherham United FC
Oxford United FC v Rotherham United FC
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YOU don’t have to try too hard to find plenty who reckon, having totted up the eight point gap, that that’s it.

You might have to search a bit harder to find those, and there’ll be a few saying ‘never say never’, who reckon it’s not over yet.

They are a dwindling band, of course, not least because the Millers are not only not winning but also are not convincing enough to suggest they can get in the Play-offs let alone do anything if they did get there.

Rotherham United followers went into this week with real hope that their favourites could add their name to the list of genuine challengers and get right in there with Oxford and Gillingham, even above them and into that top seven themselves.

But, hard though they strove and well though they played, they couldn’t topple Torquay in midweek and when it came to the crunch clash with Chris Wilder’s side, they were ultimately found wanting.

A week that held so much promise ended with despair and with frustrated Millers fans displaying their disappointment.

Nothing is yet settled but it would take a remarkable winning run now and with only four wins since the turn of the year, it’s hard to make out a case for anything other than the club’s second lowest finish in post-war football (the lowest in that time is 15th in 1973/74).

Andy Scott must be puzzled as he sees points constantly leak away. His ‘top spot only’ remark looks a very long way away - and not just because he made it back in July!

The Millers knew what was at stake in this game and you could hardly argue with what they threw at a first half in which both sides hardly gave the other an inch. When they did, a petty foul usually followed giving our old friend Trevor Kettle plenty of chance to blow his whistle.

Neither wanted to let the other have a break and Revell, for one, took some stick from Oxford’s central defenders with Jake Wright’s infringements, particularly, often going unspotted.

There was Rotherham frustration at poor quality in some attacking situations, balls crossed behind or half-decent shooting positions wasted.

Oxford carried a little extra potency and the suggestion they had one or two who could unlock Rotherham’s defensive door, something they didn’t manage thanks to dogged defending.

As the two-minute stoppage time board went up, the Millers had more than earned the goalless scoreline. As the half ended, they were going on the attack.

Then Mark Bradley switched a pass inside and that’s the last Rotherham saw of it until Scott Rendell stuck it in their net following Peter Leven’s long ball.

Within seconds of the restart the half-time whistle went. The Millers looked demoralised. They knew the significance of that moment.

The second half was one where Rotherham looked, at one stage, as if they might go under by three or four yet they emerged for a final 20 minutes in which they troubled the home side and were a goalline clearance away from a stoppage time equaliser.

Ben Pringle, who again operated behind Revell although Oxford had ex-Blades youngster Adam Chapman in a deep-lying role to combat it, had a self-made chance to equalise before Asa Hall’s 52nd minute strike put Oxford two up.

Oxford could now, contentedly, let Rotherham come on to them and look to punish them on the break

By the time Rhys Taylor made his stunning save from Rendell’s header on the hour, Oxford were buoyant and threatening to make the scoreline even more of a misery.

With precious little to lose (and already having put on Kieron Cadogan), Scott put on young Sam Hoskins for his first taste of league football.

He went down the middle alongside Revell and it was a lively cameo, one nippy run into area ending with him fizzing the ball across the goal face.

To their credit, Rotherham worked their way back into the game as a genuine threat with Cadogan causing some trouble.

Bradley had an 18-yarder saved and with seven to go, Lewis Grabban’s penalty (to the keeper’s right as he went the wrong way) threw a lifeline, Taylor having been fouled by Chapman.

In the next minute, Danny Harrison’s header was cleared near the line by Duberry and then Raynes cleared from under the bar from Morgan.

Rotherham hadn’t finished and in the first minute of stoppage time, Cadogan’s shot was cleared off the line by Duberry to prevent a dramatic equaliser.