A GOAL in first half stoppage time sent Rotherham United on the way to a damaging defeat.
No-one could argue with the sentiments expressed by Andy Scott beforehand when he said it was a “must-win” match for his side.
Defeat certainly wasn’t on the agenda and whilst not killing off the play-off hopes completely it would leave them well adrift and then be a very tall order indeed.
Chris Wilder, once with Rotherham of course, has done a good job here at Oxford, firstly stabilising them in their first season back in the League and now having them pushing for the play-offs this time.
The sides met on the opening day of the season and of the Rotherham starters that day only three were in today’s 11 - midfielders Harrison and Taylor along with Grabban who got the only goal.
Rotherham again had Pringle in behind Revell and inside 45 seconds a little touch from Pringle sent Evans running towards the penalty area.
He elected to have a go from around 25 yards but failed to get real power to it.
Ref Kettle looked like being busy because there were quite a few niggling fouls and his first booking went to Bradley after Rendell went down as he cut across the right back’s path.
As you would expect both sides were having to scrap for every inch of ground and it was leading to a spate of free kicks but all for fairly minor offences.
The rangy Johnson went on a long run down the right and Rendell almost squeezed a shot on target from beyhond the far post.
Then Rotherham weren’t far off what would have been a sensational goal.
Wood struck a long free kick from ddeep inside his own half. Revell headed it across towards the left where Evans closed in and struck a volley which wasn’t far over the top.
In the second minute of stoppage time the Millers fell behind and it was agony for Bradley.
Rotherham were going forward, Bradley was in an attacking position on the right and tried to play the ball inside but it was cut out. Leven instantly struck a long ball downfield which sent RENDELL clear and he rolled his shot inside Taylor’s right hand post and the whistle went within seconds of the restart.
Rotherham had an opportunity in the opening minute when Revell and Pringle linked to find Taylor.
He had Harrison moving into space but elected to find Bradley and he was robbed inside the area. Oxford broke away and it needed fine defending by Mullins to end the threat.
When Pringle blocked a clearance by Wright the rebound put the Rotherham man into the area but in trying to come back inside the chasing Wright he was bustled out of possession.
Things then got worse for the Millers when they went two down on 52 minutes. Johnson’s short ball in from the touchline put right back Whing into the area and the cutback was fired into the roof of the net by HALL.
With the home side buoyant it was now looking a very long way back for the Millers.
It needed excellent defending by Raynes to cut out Leven who had been put in the clear by Morgan. Then Taylor made an absolutely fantastic save to turn behind a header from Rendell. After Grabban found him, Revell struck a 20 yard volley a couple of yards wide.
There was a first appearance for 19-year-old Hoskins who went on for Pringle.And within minutes the youngster made a lively burst into the area, and from a tight angle his effort went right across the goal face with Grabban arriving just too late.
Bradley had a shot saved and Rotherham had fought their way back and with seven minutes left GRABBAN slotted home a penalty after Taylor had been brought down by Chapman. Cadogan saw his shot cleared off the line in stoppage time.