Millers slip to narrow defeat....
ROTHERHAM United’s three-match winning run in all competitions came to an abrupt end when an in-form Oxford United side earned a narrow victory at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
In an even first period, Michael Ihiekwe’s first goal of the campaign cancelled out Tariqe Fosu-Henry’s impressive opener before Karl Robinson’s side were rewarded for a fine second half display when Matty Taylor headed home the winner, just before the hour mark.
Following their eye-catching victory over Blackpool in their last outing, Millers chief Paul Warne made a solitary change to his starting line-up.
Experienced operator Joe Mattock, who put pen-to-paper on an extended deal with the Millers this week, managed to shrug off a quad injury sustained in the warm-up at Bloomfield Road, to return to the left-back slot, at the expense of last week’s match winner Clark Robertson.
Robertson was absent due to a groin injury while there was no place in the Oxford squad for one-time Miller Anthony Forde.
The home side had the first sight of goal when Ihiekwe and Matt Crooks combined superbly to pave the way for Matt Olosunde to skip to the by-line and the American full back delivered a cross which was diverted to safety by the retreating Alex Rodriguex-Gorrin.
Home ‘keeper Daniel Iversen was called into action to pluck James Henry’s hanging cross out of the sky before Dan Barlaser’s whipped free-kick narrowly evaded the attentions of Michael Smith and skipper Richard Wood, at the other end.
Just past the quarter hour mark, Henry volleyed wide from the edge of the box after Rotherham made a hash of a clearance before Smith injected pace into a home move by presenting Jake Hastie – with the chance to strike on his favoured left-foot, but his effort was deflected over by Chris Cadden.
Following a steady start by both teams, Oxford broke the deadlock on 23 minutes when the ball was threaded into the left channel and Cameron Brannagan got the better of a tussle with Olosunde to play the ball into the path of Fosu-Henry, who took aim from distance and his fierce left-footed effort gathered pace in the air, as it arrowed past the outstretched hand of Iversen, to find the far corner of the net.
However, Oxford’s joy was almost short-lived as the Millers came within a whisker of equalising, almost immediately, when Matt Crooks showed good awareness to spot Hastie in space in the box, and the Rangers loanee got the ball from under his feet to strike goalwards, and the ball flew past Simon Eastwood, but Cadden anticipated the danger, by superbly managing to keep the ball out on his own goal line – with home fans and players’ appealing he may have used his hand, in the process – although the referee waved away home protests.
The visitors were looking lively, in the attacking areas, and Josh Ruffels’ pin-point pass was taken in his stride by Brannigan, who breezed past his marker, before firing goalwards but Iversen was his equal, with a save with his legs before visiting skipper John Mousinho headed over, at the back post, following a neat set-piece move.
The moments proved crucial as Rotherham got themselves back on level terms with a move started and finished by Ihiekwe.
The ball-playing centre-half calmly strode out of defence to put the impetus in a Rotherham attack and after playing the ball wide to Smith, the former Tranmere Rovers defender carried on his run, and Smith delivered a clipped centre which was cushioned by Crooks back into the danger area and Ihiekwe showed great bravery, to get the better of Henry in an aerial duel and avoid the on-rushing Eastwood, to nod home into the unguarded net.
With half-time approaching, Smith was the victim of a hefty challenge on halfway and Crooks got the ball under his spell to race towards the Oxford goal but Cadden stuck out a timely leg to prevent him getting his shot away.
Half-time- Rotherham United 1 Oxford United 1
Following a slow start to the half by both sides, Oxford regained the lead, just shy of the hour mark, when Ruffels looked to have felled Wiles in the build-up, but the referee opted to play on and the ball was played to Brannagan, and with both Ihiekwe and Olosunde looking their footing in the box, the visiting playmaker had the chance to clip a cross which was met by the head of Taylor, who nodded downwards and despite Iversen getting a hand to his effort, the ball found the corner of the net.
The visitors came close to a third goal on a number of occassions when Lindsay had to put in a timely tackle to deny Henry, who had burst clear before a hopeful ball into the box was not dealt with by the Rotherham defence and Ruffels controlled the ball to give Taylor, an opportunity to bust the net from close range but Iversen pulled off a top-drawer save, at point-blank range, against all odds.
Oxford were piling on the pressure and Mousinho had an effort deflected over while Iversen denied Taylor, who attempted to lob him. The Danish ‘keeper was again at his best to prevent Henry from finding the bottom corner with a sprawled save before Fosu-Henry stung his palms with a low shot from distance.
The Millers were struggling to make their mark and Chiedozie Ogbene, Julien Lamy and Carlton Morris were introduced, in an effort to spark the home side to life, and it almost paid dividends when the latter almost got on the end of Mattock’s cross, but a retreating defender snuffed out the danger with a headed clearance before Ogbene had a shot blocked on the edge of the box.
In the dying minutes, Taylor became the first to see yellow for a series of misdemeanours before Lamy planted a superb first-time cross from the flank which narrowly evaded home runners.
The Millers were gunning for an equaliser and Olosunde attacked from deep to dart past Brannagan and Rodriguez-Gorrin before firing an effort which deflected off Cadden, but Eastwood, despite being wrong footed, kept the ball out at the near post before Ogbene got to the touchline to hang a cross which was met by Morris, but his header lacked power as it was claimed by the away ‘keeper on his line.
Oxford almost put the gloss on the scoreline, in the last noteworthy action of the game, when Fosu-Henry broke away, in a counter-attack, but his low effort struck the outside of the post.
Full-time- Rotherham United 1 Oxford United 2
Rotherham United 1
Oxford United 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Iversen, Mattock, Wood, Wiles, Barlaser (Ogbene 66), Lindsay, Crooks (Morris 72), Ihiekwe, Olosunde, Hastie (Lamy 77), Smith. Unused- Price, B Jones, MacDonald, Clarke.
Oxford- Eastwood, Cadden, Ruffels, Moore, Rodriguez-Gorrin, Brannagan, Taylor (Mackie 85), Fosu-Henry, Mousinho, Henry (Long 90), Sykes (Baptiste 74). Unused- Stevens, Hall, Agyei, N Jones
Referee- S Oldham
Attendance- 8837 (734)