Oxford United 0 Rotherham United 4 (Noble 30, Arnason 33, Mullins 41, Pringle 44) (From Herald Series)
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Oxford United 0 Rotherham United 4 (Noble 30, Arnason 33, Mullins 41, Pringle 44)
OXFORD United's good run was emphatically ended as they were thrashed at home by Rotherham United tonight.
All four goals came in a nightmare 14-minute spell for the hosts just before the break.
It was the first time they had faced such a half-time scoreline at home since a 7-1 mauling by Birmingham City in December 1998.
It could have been so different if Sean Rigg had converted a glorious chance midway through the half.
But after David Noble opened the scoring with the help of a deflection on the half hour mark, United imploded.
The Millers scored three more times, including one from former loanee Johnny Mullins, to make the game safe.
Rotherham did not exert themselves unduly after the break, in a second half where the most noteworthy elements came from the passionate and sustained support from the home fans.
There were three changes to the hosts' XI from the side which began Saturday's 2-1 win against Port Vale.
Andy Whing and Simon Heslop were preferred to Adam Chapman, who dropped out of the squad, and Tony Capaldi in midfield.
Michael Duberry also came in for his first start in more than a month, replacing Josh Parker as the U's switched to a 3-4-3 system.
They came into the game full of confidence after beating the division's top two in successive games.
Alfie Potter, who scored in both wins, looked lively early on, embarking on several mazy runs which got the home fans on their feet.
But Rotherham were in good form too and gave a hint of what was to come on eight minutes.
A ball over the top beat the offside trap and only an excellent challenge from Jake Wright prevented Daniel Nardiello from a clear chance.
The first real opportunity of the night came on 23 minutes and fell to the U's.
A neat move saw Potter find Batt, whose cross fell to Rigg. The winger had got the wrong side of a disorganised defence, but he missed the target.
It was a significant moment, letting Rotherham off the hook.
The Millers made the most of it and had the game well and truly won by half time.
Their opening goal, on the half-hour mark, had an element of fortune as Noble's long range shot took a wicked deflection off Michael Raynes.
It wrong-footed Luke McCormick, but the goalkeeper may still feel he should have done better.
United were still reeling when Kari Arnason glanced a Ben Pringle corner just inside an unguarded far post to make it 2-0 less than three minutes later.
The home side responded with a tactical change.
Damian Batt and Liam Davis were withdrawn into their usual full-back roles, while Raynes was pushed into an unfamiliar positon just ahead of the back four.
Whether they were still readjusting to the change or not, United's defence looked in disarray as Rotherham struck twice more just before the break.
Johnny Mullins, who was a popular player on loan with the U's in the autumn, stuck the knife in with a precise shot on 41 minutes.
The Millers skipper was allowed too much space in the box, but it was nothing compared to the freedom Pringle had three minutes later.
Alex Revell got the better of Duberry and passed across the face of goal, where Pringle had the simplest of tasks to tap into the net.
An already restless crowd made their dissatisfaction clear as the half came to an end.
Duberry and Heslop made way at the break, replaced by Scott Davies and Josh Parker.
But the damage had been done and the U's looked shell shocked, with even their most reliable players making elementary errors.
Rotherham looked happy to play within themselves, knowing the points were already in the bag.
Lee Frecklington almost made it 5-0 on the hour, only to be denied by a clearance on the line from Raynes.
The game petered out as a contest, but the United fans showed admirable commitment to their side.
For the entire final half hour the Oxford Mail Stand noisily backed their side.
It was an impressive show of support, which included a conga line weaving in and out of the exits at one stage.
There was little for them to get excited about in the closing stages, although new signing Scott Davies showed some neat touches.
The final whistle put United out of their misery and gave them plenty of food for thought as they head back to the drawing board for the final ten games of the season.
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