A HAT-TRICK of spectacular goals saw Oxford United sign off with style in their final home game of the season.

There was little to excite in a dull opening 45 minutes at the Kassam Stadium, which saw Alfie potter miss two good chances.

But United went up a gear after the break following a rare goal from Andy Whing.

The midfielder's bicycle kick appeared to inspire his teammates, with James Constable lashing a shot into the top corner to make the win safe.

Potter made up for his earlier misses with a third goal late on, which gave the U's their biggest home win since October.

Despite the result Bradford City's win over Burton ensured United's mathematical chances of making the play-offs were finally ended, but the manner of the result gave some consolation to home fans who have endured a frustrating season.

A back injury saw skipper Jake Wright miss only his third league game of the league campaign, forcing one of three changes to the XI as U's boss Chris Wilder switched to a 4-3-3 system.

Michael Raynes came into the side instead, while Sean Rigg and Tony Capaldi replaced Josh Parker and Luke O'Brien.

The home side almost got away to a fast start.

Less than three minutes were on the clock when Deane Smalley met Scott Davies's pass with a sweet volley.

Dale keeper Josh Lillis parried it straight to Potter, who steadied himself before shooting wide.

Had it gone in the pattern of the first half might have been different, but instead there was little to entertain either set of fans before the break.

It looked very much like a contest between two sides with little to play for and at times the atmosphere was almost what you would expect from a pre-season game.

Rochdale arrived on the back of a six-game unbeaten run and knocked the ball around confidently without over-exerting Max Crocombe.

George Donnelly had their best moment of the first half, but he could only head straight at the teenage goalkeeper on 18 minutes.

At the other end a mis-timed punch from Lillis fell to Davies, whose first-time lob drifted over.

United had plenty of the ball but were guilty of giving it away cheaply.

Capaldi looked very rusty on his return from a back injury and it was no surprise he was substituted for Constable at half time.

Despite their lack of dynamism United carved out another superb chance on 32 minutes.

Again it fell to Potter, put through by Smalley, but under pressure he missed his kick and the ball trickled to Lillis.

Constable's introduction saw United change to a 4-4-2 and within eight minutes they were ahead.

The breakthrough came from an unlikely source, as Smalley crossed for Whing to steer in with an acrobatic bicycle kick.

It was a collector's item from the midfielder, who had scored just once in the previous two seasons.

Dale boss Keith Hill responded with a triple substitution and his side went on to enjoy a decent spell.

Twice United needed interventions by Michael Duberry to snuff out dangerous moments.

Jason Kennedy also fired wide when Liam Davis let a cross go, while Gray's first touch after coming off the bench was to shoot into the side netting.

But United hit back in style to make sure of the points 14 minutes from time.

Substitute Jon-Paul Pittman played in Constable, who smashed a shot into the top corner from an acute angle.

It was a superb finish and as his 13th of the season it took him clear of Tom Craddock as United's top scorer this season.

The goal deflated Rochdale, who spent the final quarter of an hour giving away sloppy free-kicks.

United were in no mood to run down the clock and finished with another excellent goal.

A Rochdale corner was intercepted by Rigg, who set off on a 60-yard run from his own box into the visitors' half.

He drew the last defender before playing in Potter to clip a neat finish into the net, wrapping up an excellent 45 minutes.

Oxford Utd (4-3-3): Crocombe, Batt, Raynes, Duberry, Davis (O'Brien 61), Whing, Davies, Capaldi (Constable ht), Potter, Smalley (Pittman 72), Rigg.

Unused subs: McCormick, Heslop, Long, O'Dowda.

Rochdale (4-4-2): Lillis, Rafferty (Cansdell-Sherriff 63), Edwards, Thomas, Rose, Cavanagh, Kennedy (Logan 63), Henderson, Grimes (Gray 63), Grant, Donnelly.

Unused subs: Barry-Murphy, Collis, Gornell, McIntyre.

Referee: Steven Rushton.

Attendance: 6,014 (248 visitors).