REPORT | Rotherham 2 v 3 Oxford United
ROTHERHAM United exited the Emirates FA Cup at the third round stage as Oxford United ran out 3-2 victors at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Ryan Taylor came back to haunt his former club with the opening goal before Danny Ward’s ninth goal of the season levelled matters, just minutes into the second half.
With the tie in the balance, Phil Edwards swung the game in the U’s favour with a close range header before sub Kane Hemmings extended their lead with two minutes to go.
Tom Adeyemi gave the Millers hope late on with a close range strike but Oxford held on to record victory.
Following their derby day defeat at the hands of Leeds United in their last outing, the Millers made three changes to their starting line-up for the visit of Michael Appleton’s side.
Richard Wood was recalled to the heart of the home rearguard at the expense of Tunisian international Aïmen Belaïd, who had to settle for a substitutes berth.
Will Vaulks was handed an opportunity in the engine room as club skipper Lee Frecklington was ruled out because of an ankle injury, while Nigerian international Peter Odemwingie, was initially named in the starting line-up, but had to be replaced by Dexter Blackstock, for the start of the game after pulling up in the warm-up.
There were a couple of familiar faces in the Oxford side as Chris Maguire and Taylor lined up in attack for the visitors while Joe Skarz, who achieved back-to-back promotions with the Millers, was named on the U’s bench.
The Millers could have been ahead as the second minute when Joe Newell’s defence-splitting pass saw Ward beat the Oxford offside trap to superbly bring the ball under his spell, but despite baring down on Simon Eastwood’s goal, the Millers striker dragged his shot harmlessly across the face of goal.
Minutes later, there looked little danger when Marvin Johnson picked the ball up on halfway but the Oxford full-back sped away from the attentions of Anthony Forde before running hard at the Rotherham defence to work a shooting position where he fired a rising effort from the edge of the box which was tipped over by Lewis Price.
From the resultant corner, Maguire ghosted away from his marker at the near post before deftly flicking the ball towards goal but his effort cleared the crossbar.
The ex-Millers and Sheffield Wednesday striker was in the thick of the early action and after exchanging passes with Taylor, who cleverly steered the ball back into his path, Maguire got on the wrong side of Broadfoot to advance menacingly into the home box but despite having just Price to beat, he planted his shot narrowly wide of the target.
The visitors were looking the most likely and Hall shrugged off the attentions of his marker to skip to the by line but his dangerous centre was cut by Broadfoot at the near post before the Millers’ were indebted to Joe Mattock for a timely tackle following a swift Oxford counter-attack, as he prevented Alex MacDonald racing clear following Taylor’s through ball.
Minutes later, Johnson weighed up his options to deliver a tantalising centre which Taylor anticipated superbly to attempt a diving header from just inside the home box which Price anxiously watched fly past the home upright.
In a rare Millers’ attack, Blackstock was the beneficiary of a lucky ricochet as he raced towards goal but Curtis Nelson came to Oxford’s rescue with a timely tackle as the home striker looked to shoot.
Just before the half hour mark, Taylor was again the creator as he gave MacDonald a glimpse of the target but the visiting winger could only fire his effort into the home faithful behind the goal.
The visitors wasted an opportunity to break the deadlock when Forde dwelt in possession and Phil Edwards pounced on the loose ball and the move ended when Taylor showed clever footwork in the box before being unceremoniously felled by Broadfoot and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
From the resultant penalty, Price kept his nerve as he guessed correctly to his left to keep out Maguire’s tame spot kick before Darnell Fisher was shown the yellow card following the ensuing home celebrations.
The Millers almost made the visitors pay for their miss when good work from Fisher and Newell gave Ward the opportunity to take aim but his left-footed effort was deflected narrowly over the bar.
However, Oxford took a deserved lead four minutes before the interval when sloppy play from the Millers left the home side short of numbers and Maguire spotted the opportunity to release Hall, who calmly pulled the ball back into the path of Taylor, who calmly slotted the ball past the outstretched hand of Price to find the heart of the home goal.
However, Oxford’s joy almost proved short lived when Fisher injected pace into the move to release Forde, who floated a delicate cross which was met by the head of Tom Adeyemi and the Cardiff loanee planted a downward header which was arrowing into the bottom corner until Eastwood tipped the ball around the post.
Half-time: Rotherham United 0 Oxford United 1
The Millers had the first sight of goal in the second half when Newell’s marauding run paved the way for Ward to race into the box but his cross was cut out at the near post with Blackstock lurking.
However, the Millers found themselves on level terms, just six minutes into the half, when Fisher’s clipped ball saw Ward in a tussle with his marker, and the in-form striker brushed off his attentions with a minimum of fuss before rifling an effort into the top-right corner of the Oxford goal giving Eastwood no chance.
The home side were buoyed by the equaliser and Adeyemi had a long range shot blocked before sub Jerry Yates almost made an immediate impact from the bench when a clever turn left Nelson grounded before he drilled a low effort which was blocked by Chey Dunkley en-route to goal.
Good work from Yates and Ward presented Vaulks with the chance to try his luck from distance but his drilled effort was straight down the throat of Eastwood before Robert Hall stung the palms of Price with a left-footed shot, at the other end, as Wood hacked clear with Maguire looking to tap home the rebound.
Just before the hour mark, Forde’s mazy run had the U’s defence backtracking towards their own goal as Ward drilled a fierce effort which flew narrowly over the visitors’ bar before Ward turned creator, moments later, as his lay-off paved the way for Vaulks, to fire a daisy-cutter from distance which kissed the AESSEAL New York Stadium surface as it smashed against the outside of the post before flying to safety.
In the Millers’ next attack, Newell and Mattock combined smartly to give Vaulks another shooting opportunity and although this time, the ex-Falkirk midfielder screwed his shot, Ward was on his toes to deftly flick the ball towards goal but Eastwood reacted smartly to the ricochet to snuff out the danger.
Ward was proving a thorn in Oxford’s side and after brushing aside the last-gasp challenge of Dunkley to race into the visitors box, the U’s were thankful to Eastwood for keeping his well-struck effort out.
Minutes later, Vaulks slide-rule pass saw Ward cut inside with menace but the ball ran away from him and although Eastwood and a number of Oxford defenders failed to clear their lines, Ward was not able to take advantage as he blasted over from close range.
The Millers had a let-off when following Dunkley’s exquisite back-heel, MacDonald bizarrely elected to pass rather than shoot despite having the goal at his mercy as his cross was cut out by a retreating home defender before Ryan Ledson’s dipping effort from the edge of the box had Price at full-stretch as he parried the ball to safety.
However, the Millers failed to heed the warning, as from the resultant corner, MacDonald swung a deep centre to the far post and Edwards ghosted behind the ruck of bodies in the box to plant a point-blank header which Price got a hand to but the ball squirmed into the bottom corner of the home net.
In the latter stages of the game, Mattock fired over before Ward volleyed over from Fisher’s driven cross before Oxford gave themselves some breathing space when Johnson skipped to the byline before delivering a delicious centre which fizzed between the Rotherham rearguard and Price as Hemmings nipped in to tap home from close range.
The Millers gave themselves a lifeline in the dying minutes when a cross from the right flank saw Adeyemi almost nip in unnoticed to poke the ball home from point-blank range.
In stoppage time, Johnson led a quick Oxford counter attack and Hemmings looked a certain scorer as he stretched to meet his cross but he failed to make a clean connection, as the ball went wide.
Despite the miss, Oxford successfully ran down the clock to book their place in the fourth round hat at the expense of the Millers.
Full-time- Rotherham United 2 Oxford United 3
Rotherham United 2
Oxford United 3
Teams:- Rotherham- Price, Mattock, Vaulks, Broadfoot, Wood, Forde, Ward, Blackstock (Yates 53), Fisher, Newell, Adeyemi. Unused- McMahon, Kelly, J Taylor, Wilson, Belaïd.
Oxford- Eastwood, Lundstram, Nelson, Maguire (Rothwell 81), MacDonald, Edwards, Hall (Sercombe 74), R Taylor (Hemmings 80), Ledson, Johnson, Dunkley. Unused- Buchel, Skarz, Ruffels, Hemmings, Raglan.
Referee- D Bond
Attendance- 5618 (1292).