Two goals from old boy Alex Jakubiak meant that Oxford United ended 2018 with a 2-0 defeat against Bristol Rovers this afternoon.
In a fast-paced game, United made most of the early running without truly testing visiting keeper Jack Bonham. Sam Long, back in the side at right-back after Jamie Hanson picked up a knock on Boxing Day, put a couple of early crosses in and James Henry fired a half chance over the bar, but Rovers looked lively on the break and the pace of Jakubiak was causing plenty of problems.
It was no surprise when the former United loanee opened the scoring after 17 minutes. Another ex United player, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, set it up with a ball in to the front man, but there was still plenty of work to do for the former Watford man, who twisted, worked some space and then hammered the ball inside the right-hand post for an expertly taken goal.
United almost replied when the hard-working Cameron Brannagan teed up Gavin Whyte for a well-struck effort that flew off the bar to safety, and there were half-hearted shouts for a penalty soon after before ref Mr Salisbury had had enough and limped off, to be replaced by Conor Farrell.
Brannagan then took it upon himself to get his side back on level terms, putting in a terrific performance and chasing the ball everywhere. He teed up Whyte for an effort that flew over, crossed for Browne who did similarly, albeit under pressure, and with Henry also raising the tempo, the U’s were far from out of the game at the break.
They lifted it still further after the interval, Whyte turning his man inside out down the right, Nelson guiding a header inches wide from a Brannagan cross and with the crowd roaring their team on an equaliser looked on the cards.
Sadly, the atmosphere was sucked out of the ground just after the hour as the Gas made it two and just about sealed their sixth successive win at Grenoble Road. Again it was Jakubiak, this time shrugging off the off-balance Dickie and running clear at Eastwood. The finish was clinical, Rovers were 2-0 up and United were headfing for back-to-back defeats.
It might have been worse when yet another former United man, Liam Sercombe, slammed into the side-netting in uncharacteristic style, and then Jakubiak floated another chance across the face of goal. You can always guarantee that this United side will work hard though and they kept going right to the end, but with one or two players clearly carrying knocks and some very tired limbs, it was always going to be difficult against a strong physical side who have now won three of their last four games and whose caretaker boss Graham Coughlan must surely be in the running to take over full time.
United, meanwhile, will look back on a frustrating game to end a slightly frustrating 2018. They get the chance to start a brand new chapter when we head for Plymouth on January 1st. See you there.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels and Tom Melville, stats by OPTA