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REPORT | Oxford 1 v 3 Rotherham

11 January 2020

Kyle Vassell struck a brace to help fire Rotherham United to the summit of the Sky Bet League One table on Saturday afternoon, with the Millers downing Oxford United 3-1 at the Kassam Stadium.

Richard Wood also got his name on the scoresheet to put his side three to the good at half-time, and despite Marcus Browne hitting one back for U’s, it was Paul Warne’s men who reigned supreme.

As the swirling wind swept around the Kassam Stadium, it was the Millers who looked to use that to their advantage after three minutes as Dan Barlaser hurled a deep free-kick into the area. U’s goalkeeper Simon Eastwood was unable to gather, and it looked as if Vassell would have an opportunity to take aim, but the referee pulled things back for a foul.

Oxford did start to control possession for spells as they searched for an opener, but they were met by a resolute Rotherham defence. With a quarter of an hour played Mark Sykes showed great pace to get beyond Matt Olosunde and send in a cross, but Daniel Iversen commanded his area well to get to the ball first ahead of Jamie Mackie despite the difficult conditions.

Just a minute later, the Millers were ahead as they worked the ball down the right-hand side to open up the Oxford back line. Chiedoze Ogbene drilled in a low cross that seemed to bamboozle Eastwood, and Vassell profited to tap home from close range against his former club.

The hosts had a chance to level things midway through the first half as Elliott Moore got up well to head a dangerous corner back across. Ruffels was there to meet it, but his effort was well saved by Iversen. Ogbene then countered almost immediately afterwards, only to see his powerful strike kept out via the outstretched arm of Eastwood.

With 33 minutes played a great breakaway move almost saw the Millers extend their lead, but new signing Hakeeb Adelakun could only send a dipping effort over the bar. However, just seconds later, the margin was widened to two as Vassell expertly lobbed the goalkeeper from the edge of the box to spark euphoric scenes amongst the travelling supporters.

It got even better on the stroke of half-time as Vassell chipped a dangerous cross into a crowded goalmouth, and Wood towered above his marker to direct a header into the far corner via the inside of the post to round off a dominant first half.

Karl Robinson reacted by making a double substitution during the interval, with Nathan Holland and Browne both entering the fray in place of Alex Gorrin and Cameron Brannagan. Instead, it was Shandon Baptiste who almost fathomed a chance after dancing his way into the area, but Michael Ihiekwe thwarted him with a perfectly timed challenge on 49 minutes.

Although Oxford showed glimpses of promise in the early exchanges, they were unable to turn their possession into sightings of goal and the Millers continued to look organised as a unit to deny the U’s. That was until 71 minutes, however, as Marcus Browne smashed one beyond Iversen from 12 yards after profiting on a loose ball.

As that goal sparked Oxford into life, they passed up a golden opportunity to reduce the deficit to just one goal in the 75th minute as Matt Taylor intercepted a loose pass to present himself with a one-on-one. To Rotherham’s relief, he dragged his effort wide. Holland then powered one on target during the next attack, only for Iversen to pull off a superb flying save.

It was the Rotherham defence who were the busiest of the two as expected in the dying embers of the game, but they soaked up the Oxford pressure to extend their unbeaten run to six games in Sky Bet League One, with Freddie Ladapo going close to making it even more emphatic with three minutes to play.

Teams

Oxford United | Eastwood, Ruffels, Dickie, Moore, Gorrin (Holland 45’), Brannagan (Browne 45’), Fosu, Long, Baptiste, Sykes, Mackie © (Taylor 61’).

Unused Substitutes | Stevens, Hall, Mousinho, Kelly.

Rotherham United |Iversen; Olosunde, Wood ©, Ihiekwe, Wiles; Adelakun (Lindsay 72’), Crooks, Barlaser (Clarke 90+2’), Ogbene; Vassell (Ladapo 76’), Smith.

Unused Substitutes | Bilboe, Hastie, Lamy, Kayode.


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