OXFORD United lost for the third time in a week after their afternoon went into reverse following Ben Woodburn’s classy opener.

The Liverpool loanee picked out the far corner from 25 yards to give Karl Robinson’s side the lead.

But after Matty Taylor’s return was ended by an injury, Rovers roared back into the game.

Ed Upson spectacularly levelled on the volley, before Jonson Clarke-Harris headed the Pirates into the lead just before half-time.

United had plenty of the game after half-time without seriously threatening an equaliser and Rovers cashed in 12 minutes from time through substitute Tom Nichols.

Robinson made three changes to the starting XI from midweek.

Elliott Moore replaced John Mousinho at centre half, Jamie Hanson came in for Alex Gorrin in midfield and Anthony Forde made way for Tariqe Fosu.

United had received a police escort to the Memorial Stadium due to heightened tensions around Taylor’s return to the Pirates.

The striker should have silenced the boos in the ninth minute when Fosu’s low cross came through a packed six-yard box, but the ball went through his legs to the delight of the home fans.

It was as feisty a clash as expected, with Rovers skipper Ollie Clarke the first player booked, in the tenth minute.

Taylor quickly had his name taken for a clash with Alfie Kilgour.

The game was being broken up by set pieces, but United looked the more dangerous when the game did flow.

It took them 27 minutes to muster an effort on Anssi Jaakkola’s goal, but it was worth the wait.

A patient build-up led to Rob Dickie picking out Woodburn, who turned and shot from 25 yards. Although the effort did not look powerful enough to trouble Jaakkola, it was inch-perfect and nestled into the far corner.

United were ahead and had not looked troubled defensively, but the half rapidly went downhill.

Taylor’s afternoon was brought to an abrupt end when he sat down in the centre circle with an injury which forced him off.

And eight minutes before the break, Rovers were level.

United did not clear their lines and the third cross in succession was cleared to Upson. The midfielder chested the ball into the air before unleashing a volley which beat Simon Eastwood’s dive.

Having been comfortable before the goal, United were suddenly on the back foot.

Rovers’ approach was simple but increasingly effective and from one Josh Hare cross they were ahead when Clarke-Harris held off his marker to head into the net on 45 minutes.

United had it all to do after the break, but came out strongly.

From a 50th-minute corner they had two chances, only to see Rovers hack the ball off the line.

The home fans were getting restless as their side sat back and handed United the initiative.

But just as at Blackpool a week earlier, Robinson’s side struggled to turn possession into an end product.

A host of crosses never looked like troubling the home side with only Jamie Mackie in the box.

Both sides tired in the hot August sunshine, but Rovers’ more sporadic attacks carried more threat.

Tyler Smith had a great chance to make it 3-1 just before the hour mark, but he could not control his header eight yards out.

Still United probed for an equaliser, only to see set pieces come and go without an effort on goal.

And 12 minutes from time, they were punished for not clearing their lines.

Clarke danced across the edge of the box leaving several yellow shirts in his wake, before driving forward and crossing for Nichols to fire home.

Substitute Rob Hall had a shot tipped over late on, but it was far too little too late.

Bristol Rov (3-5-2): Jaakola, Davies, Craig, Kilgour, Hare, Ogogo, Clarke (Rodman 84), Upson, Leahy, Clarke-Harris (Adeboyejo 74), Smith (Nichols 75).

Unused subs: Van Stappershoef, Little, Bennett, Menayese.

Booked: Clarke, Upson, Davies.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Eastwood, Cadden, Dickie, Moore, Ruffels, Brannagan (Hall 86), Hanson, Henry, Woodburn (Forde 78), Fosu, Taylor (Mackie 33).

Unused subs: Stevens, Mousinho, Long, Gorrin.

Booked: Taylor, Hanson, Fosu.

Referee: Charles Breakspear (Surrey).

Attendance: 7,871 (993 visitors).