Oxford United once again upset higher-division opposition as they won 3-2 at Rotherham United this afternoon in the Emirates FA Cup. Goals from Ryan Taylor
, Phil Edwards
and Kane Hemmings
sent the U's through to the fourth round despite Danny Ward's goal for Rotherham and a late goal from Tom Adeyemi that led to a frantic last few minutes.
Rotherham should have been in front inside 90 seconds when Ward was slipped in behind the United defence and didn’t even test Simon Eastwood
with his shot, dragging well wide from inside the penalty area.
That chance aside, the U’s were on top for much of the first half and created good chances.
almost won goal of the round after five minutes as he ran from half way, drifted past two men and drilled in a shot that home keeper Lewis Price tipped over the top and when Chris Maguire
rocketed the ball over the bar from the resulting corner routine United were on top.
Maguire had a perfect opportunity to beat Price after ten minutes, running clear on to a clever flick from Taylor but planting his effort a foot the wrong side of the left-hand post and Taylor then almost fed MacDonald with a through ball on 20 minutes that a desperate lunging defender just about nicked off the winger’s toe. Taylor, loving his return to the club where he started his career and just about unplayable, then threw himself at a header on 23 that drifted wide.
At the other end it took a perfectly timed tackle from the impeccable Curtis Nelson
to deny former Oxford youngster Dexter Blackstock a clear shot at goal on 26 but otherwise United looked relatively comfortable and it was hard to tell which was the side from the higher division in the first half.
On 35 the dominance should have been made to count when the excellent Edwards wanted the ball more than a dawdling defender and stormed forward. A flicked ball inside allowed Taylor to roll past Kirk Broadfoot, who brought him crashing down. Maguire stepped up from the spot but was finally found fallible as Price threw himself to make a good save from the penalty.
It didn’t matter too much because on 41 Taylor finally found the goal that he had deserved for a superb first half. Maguire started the move in the middle of the park and freed Hall to his right. His ball inside was perfect and Taylor smashed it home to make it 1-0. Not only did he refuse to celebrate against his old side he appeared on the verge of tears to have scored.
It took a good save from Eastwood, diving at full stretch to tip a Newell header round the post in injury time, to keep it 1-0 at the break but few would have denied United their advantage at half time.
However, with nothing to lose and a few choice words from boss Paul Warne warming their ears at half time, the Millers came out with much more purpose and within six minutes were level. A bouncing ball on the edge of the box led to a tussle between Nelson and Ward who then found the ball sitting up nicely for a half volley that left Eastwood with no chance.
The Millers had their tails up and Will Vaulks drove an effort against the post before Ward again forced Eastwood into a good save on 70 as the forward bore down on him one on one.
The U's were now finding it hard to build from the back as the home side chased and harried them and threatened to turn the game completely on its head. The remarkable return of Liam Sercombe
to action as a sub for the last 15 minutes, having previously been ruled out for the rest of the season, gave them a lift and new impetus and the 1,292 away fans roared them towards them as the game opened up into a proper old-fashioned FA Cup tie.
, having a storming game in midfield, forced Price into a flying save to keep out a lobbed effort on 79 but it was a short-lived relief for Rotherham because from the following corner it was 2-1 and United were through to the fourth round. A wicked in-swinging corner delivery was met by the always dangerous Edwards who buried the ball from six yards to restore the lead and set up a fantastic final ten minutes.
The home side threw men forward but United have a great resilience about them and restricted them to long-range efforts before the pick of the goals saw Lundstram spray a superb pass to the left for Johnson to deliver a magnificent cross. Hemmings, on as a sub, showed what a predator he is by nipping in front of his man to steer the ball home and seemingly ensure safe progress.
This is the FA Cup though and back came Rotherham, throwing caution to the wind and back in the game at 2-3 when Adeyemi headed home to produce a grandstand injury-time thriller.
United had deserved their win though and saw the job through admirably - Hemmings might even have made it four when sliding in at the far post in injury time.
Yet another memorable away victory, yet another cup upset, yet more superb scenes of celebration at the end.
The draw is on Monday at 7pm. CANNOT WAIT.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, stats by OPTA
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