Oxford United will again play League 1 football next season after defeat at Rotherham ended their play-off hopes this afternoon.
United got off to a flying start when Dan Barlaser gifted them the lead with an own goal, but Rarmani Edmonds-Green and a penalty from Barlaser saw the Millers come from behind to put them back into the automatic promotion places, while ensuring United can no longer make the top six.
It all looked so good after ten minutes when Elliott Moore dropped an inch-perfect pass over the head of Jordi Osei-Tutu, which Sam Long chested down to carry the ball into space behind the home defence. His low cross was heading for Matty Taylor but Barlaser did the job for him, sliding in to knock the ball past the helpless Viktor Johansson to make it 1-0.
The fairytale of New York was alive, but that was as good as it got.
Rotherham were a constant threat and they dominated a lot of the play after that, even if Jack Stevens didn’t have a shot to save for 44 minutes of the first half as the men in front offered terrific protection for their keeper, Luke McNally’s battle with Michael Smith simmering along nicely, with the tussle between Long and Osei-Tutu a decent undercard bout.
However, the Millers gradually ground down the visitors, who were leading despite not having a shot on target, and with the last touch of the half Edmonds-Green got above his man to head home a Ben Wiles cross from close range to level things at the break.
Herbie Kane had been in the wars throughout the first half and limped off at the break to be replaced by Marcus McGuane who battled hard to try and get United back on the front foot as the game opened up, with a draw of little use to either team.
Ryan Williams had a half chance, but on 65 minutes United were again destined for League 1 football as Chiedozie Ogbene chased a lost cause and was upended by McNally inside the box. Ref Charles Breakspear had no hesitation and Barlaser atoned for his earlier own goal by again planting the ball into the net in front of the magnificent away fans.
United had nothing to lose and sub Marcus Browne tested the keeper and Sam Long nodded a late chance over as they sensed that they were in desperate times.
Sadly, there was to be no last-day drama for Karl Robinson's side this year and they were glad that Stevens was there to make two terrific saves to keep their fading hopes alive for just a little longer.
It has been a gallant effort over 45 games, not just this 90 minutes, and once the pain subsides they will, as always, learn from this game, learn from this season, and go again.
First though, one last game to go, at home to Doncaster.
See you there.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Darrell Fisher, Steve Edmunds, Steve Daniels and Rex Shutterstock. Stats by OPTA