Oxford United's Emirates FA Cup run ended with a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers this afternoon. Two goals from Ben Marshall and a fine strike by Tony Watt sent Rovers through to the last 16 with a win at the Kassam Stadium, leaving the U's to fight on just the two fronts this season.
Blackburn were competitive from the very start, Marshall curling a 6th minute free kick wide and the whole side closing the U’s down and denying John Lundstram
and Liam Sercombe
space in the middle of the park. They were also on the toes of any United defender looking to play from the back, making it hard for the Yellows to build.
The added pace of Jordan Bowery
, making his full debut after scoring as a sub at Portsmouth the week before, gave the U’s an extra option up top but it was Sam Slocombe
at the other end who needed to make a good save on 21 minutes to claw away a header from Elliott Ward as Rovers made the early running.
United might have taken the lead after 27 minutes from a familiar source, as Liam Sercombe
found space on the edge of the box and made visiting keeper Jason Steele get down well to tip a low shot round the left-hand post. However, Simeon Jackson had already given them a couple of scares and on 35 minutes touched the ball beyond Joe Skarz
and was upended for a penalty which Marshall put away with an excellent strike that gave Slocombe no chance.
Slocombe needed to make another good save from Tony Watt but in injury time Rovers doubled their lead and gave the U’s a mountain to climb. Lundstram was hustled off the ball in midfield and Watt ran on, skipped to his right and then buried a perfectly aimed low shot across Slocombe to make it 2-0. If you are brought in to replace Jordan Rhodes then a goal like that will do you no harm at all.
United regrouped and came out fighting for the second half, backed by their magnificent fans who did all they could to get their side back into it. Danny Hylton
's introduction added a little urgency and he almost created a goal when he set up Sercombe, whose shot skewed wide from 15 yards.
Sadly, Blackburn were almost in control and on 76 booked their place in the next round when Marshall fired a 22-yard free kick over the wall and beyond Slocombe to make it 3-0 and game over.
No disgrace for the U's. The win over Swansea in the previous round will be the game that fans will remember in years to come. Today they came up against a side from two divisions higher who matched them for commitment and effort and had that touch of quality at key moments. There was a fantastic send off for George Baldock
, subbed for new boy Jonjoe Kenny with five minutes to go, and a great ovation at the final whistle, but time to move on.
The season is still very much alive and United have a fantastic habit of bouncing back quickly from setbacks this year. They play Millwall at the Kassam Stadium on Tuesday night, 2-0 up from the first leg and 90 minutes from Wembley. Thanks for the memories, FA Cup, now let's see if we can create a few more in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy...
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Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher and Steve Daniels, stats by Opta
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