Oxford United’s unbeaten start to the season continues after a Kemar Roofe strike gave them a 1-0 win at Bristol Rovers this afternoon in front of the Sky cameras. Roofe’s second half goal decided an enthralling game that saw both teams down to ten men.
There were two changes to the starting line-up. Callum O’Dowda’s call up for the Republic of Ireland under-21 side meant a reshuffle up front, with Ryan Taylor returning and Roofe moving to the wing, while Chey Dunkley stepped in to defence after Johnny Mullins rolled his ankle in training on Friday.
It took a while for the U’s to find their usual rhythm as the Gas began brightly. However Sam Slocombe and his defensive partners had coped admirably with anything thrown their way and on 15 minutes the game took a turn in United’s favour when Ollie Clarke and Danny Rose challenged on half way. Both players used their arms for leverage but Clarke’s elbow connected with Rose’s nose and ref James Linington was quick to show the red card.
On a sunny Sunday afternoon it left Rovers with plenty of hard work to do on an energy-sapping pitch and the Yellows started to spread the ball wide and make them work that little bit harder. A cross from George Baldock on 35 was headed just over by the hard-working Taylor and the same combination almost smuggled the ball home at the near post on 38 as the right flank began to prove productive.
The once again excellent Sercombe scooped a shot off target on 42, Alex MacDonald sent one well over on 45 and half time came with the game scoreless but United starting to make their man advantage tell.
Early second half bookings for Hylton and Taylor raised the tempo and further riled the Rovers fans who had disagreed with the first red card but those bookings perhaps hinted at the danger that was soon to level things up. In reality there was no surprise when it became ten against ten with half an hour to play. Sercombe, already booked, stuck out a leg when former U’s striker Matty Taylor tried to go round him. A second yellow for Sercombe meant ten v ten for the last third of the game.
The momentum would surely swing towards the home side now? Clearly nobody told Roofe as the ten men achieved what the 11 hadn’t. Joe Skarz crossed, sub Pat Hoban laid the ball back and Roofe let fly with a wonderful strike that was past keeper Aaron Chapman and in the roof of the net in a flash. 1-0 and Roofe still on fire.
Rovers almost found the equaliser when Jermaine Easter’s well struck volley flew straight into the grateful arms of perfectly-placed Slocombe on 65 but the United backline had defended well and when Tom Parkes did get a sight of goal on 77 he once again sent his header straight into the arms of Slocombe from six yards out.
Roofe had gone off by then, his right arm hanging limply by his side after Stuart Sinclair had landed on him during a challenge, but with John Lundstram reinforcing the midfield, United managed to see out a late push from Rovers, Slocombe making one excellent save to push a Chris Lines free kick round the post.
Full-blooded, hard-fought League 2 football, decided by a magnificent strike. The U’s, and Roofe in particular, have got into the excellent habit of coming up with moments like that...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, Stats by OPTA
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