Doncaster Rovers 1 Oxford United 0: Reece James helps Rovers to battling win

Reece James’ strike was enough for Doncaster Rovers to return to winning ways with a narrow win over Oxford United.

Wednesday, 1st January 2020, 5:04 pm
Reece James puts Rovers ahead against Oxford United. Picture: Marie Caley
Reece James puts Rovers ahead against Oxford United. Picture: Marie Caley

The full back netted in the first half to give Rovers the advantage and helped them inflict only the second defeat in 16 matches for Oxford.

It ensured Rovers exited the festive period with a pleasing return of two wins from three matches in seven days.

They found themselves under pressure for long periods against a side on rampant form, and which started the day in second place in League One.

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But they soaked up that pressure in a gritty, battling performance to secure the win.

Darren Moore made two changes to the side that started the defeat to Sunderland earlier in the week with Cameron John missing out due to a hamstring injury while Madger Gomes dropped to the bench. Reece James and Ben Sheaf returned to the starting XI.

It took a while for Rovers to get going and find some rhythm in their play.

While Oxford did not show them the same close attention they did at the Kassam Stadium earlier in the season, they still pushed up high against Rovers’ back line which proved an unsettling experience.

The visitors had early opportunities which Shandon Baptiste pushing a shot narrowly wide from the edge of the box while Matty Taylor should have done better with a free header from a free kick put planted it off target.

Tom Anderson – whose new contract was confirmed earlier in the day – scuffed a header from a Jon Taylor free kick which proved an easy claim for Oxford keeper Jordan Archer.

And Rovers began to enjoy a little more time on the ball, finding space in the middle of the park to mount periods of patient possession play taking them high up the pitch.

And they took the lead on 34 minutes.

Ben Whiteman pushed a ball straight into the box which Niall Ennis touched, sending it wide to James who slammed a low shot into the far corner.

The response from Oxford in the second half was strong and they pushed hard for an equaliser.

While the pressure from the visitors was strong, there were few clear cut chances to be had.

Their best opportunity saw Taylor head onto the post from a free kick with the ball seemingly set to spin over the line until it was hacked clear.

And Joe Wright blocked on the line when Taylor lashed a loose ball on goal from 15 yards.

Rovers looked to strike on the counter and had several promising breaks through substitute Max Watters which were snuffed out.

The pressure from the visitors was maintained until the end but Oxford's search for opportunities proved largely fruitless.

ROVERS: Dieng; Halliday, Wright, Anderson, James; Sheaf, Whiteman; Taylor (Watters 64), Coppinger (Gomes 66), Sadlier; Ennis (Thomas 81). Subs not used: Lawlor, Daniels, Amos, Greaves.

OXFORD: Archer; Cadden, Dickie, Mousinho, Ruffels; Gorrin (Mackie 70); Sykes (Hall 70), Henry, Baptiste, Fosu (Ageyi 85); Taylor. Subs not used: Stevens, Moore, Long, Lopes.

REFEREE: Sebastian Stockbridge (Tyne & Wear)

ATTENDANCE: 7,524 (759 away)