Millwall v Oxford United
Kemar Roofe scored twice to give Oxford United a huge advantage in the first leg of the area final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. Roofe's 16th and 17th goals of the season, both in the first half, earned the U's a 2-0 win at Millwall as Michael Appleton's side beat higher-league opponents for the second time in a week.
There were three changes to the side that beat Swansea on Sunday, Benji Buchel returning in goal, Jordan Evans at left back and Patrick Hoban replacing Ryan Taylor up front. It is a credit to the squad that those changes didn't affect United's rhythm or performance in any way as they once again turned on the style.
Buchel settled quickly with a smart save from Jed Wallace in the second minute and the Yellows as a team settled well, zipping the ball around and far from intimidated by their higher-league opponents. A header from captain Steve Morison drifted wide of Buchel’s right-hand post after ten minutes but otherwise the Lions were well tamed by the excellent Jake Wright and Johnny Mullins at the heart of the United defence.
It was a tight opening but on 14 minutes the game suddenly opened up as home keeper David Forde gifted United an away goal and an early lead. Roofe, out on the left wing, worked the space well to get the ball across. It was a cross, but was slightly behind Forde and should have been routine but for some inexplicable reason the Irish international keeper dived late and spooned the ball into his own net for a bizarre opener. We’ll take it.
With over 1,000 magnificent away fans in full voice, United continued to play intelligent pass-and-move football, teasing Millwall with a move in the middle of the first half that swung from side to side of the pitch, involved every player, and showed off their possession football to great effect.
The Lions, by contrast, were more direct and although Lee Gregory volleyed one effort over the bar and Morison nodded a chance straight at Buchel, they were generally second to the ball and outplayed and outfought by the U’s throughout the first half.
Had Roofe gathered in an exquisite chipped pass from the superb Lundstram after half an hour the damage would surely have been doubled, but on 43 it was inevitably Roofe again to make it 2-0. Lundstram was given far too much room, 25 yards out, and he curled in a wonderful dipping shot that beat Forde all ends up. It deserved to be a goal but instead struck the bar and came back out. Millwall watched, Roofe reacted. The only player moving in the box, Roofe simply nodded the ball past Forde and suddenly Wembley seemed a big step closer.
Two-nil up at the break, United were well aware that the Lions would get a rocket from boss Neil Harris and come out much more fired up, but the non-stop Hoban almost made it three when he steered George Baldock’s cross a foot wide of the left-hand post immediately after the interval.
As expected, Millwall rallied and a misguided header and a tame long-range shot came Buchel's way as the Lions pushed on in the first ten minutes of the second half. However, this United side are dangerous on the counter attack and Millwall were wary of over-committing, especially with the second leg still to come. Buchel saved well from Jed Wallace with 15 minutes to go, and again from Morison with eight to go, and the Lions had created enough chances around the box to suggest that the second game is far from a formality.
However, United had that cutting edge in the form of Roofe and were full value for their two-goal lead.
The date of the second game at the Kassam Stadium has yet to be decided while Sky TV decide which of the two area finals to televise. May we humbly suggest that for entertainment in the cup competitions this season, Oxford United are very hard to beat...
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher, stats by Opta
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