Story of the game as cruel defeat to Oxford United sees Doncaster Rovers go bottom of League One

Doncaster Rovers are desperate to end a six-match winless run in League One as they welcome on-form Oxford United to the Keepmoat – and you can follow the action as it happens.

Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 4:35 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th December 2021, 10:29 pm
Keepmoat Stadium

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Doncaster Rovers 1 Oxford United 2

Last updated: Tuesday, 07 December, 2021, 22:08

GOAL: Sykes (16), Horton (74), Henry (87)

ROVERS: Jones; Knoyle, Anderson, Blythe (Hiwula 46); Hasani, Galbraith, Smith, Horton; Barlow (Bogle 69), Rowe; Cukur (Dodoo 46). Subs: Dahlberg, Faulkner, Ravenhill, Williams.

OXFORD: Eastwood; Long, Moore, Thorniley, Seddon; McGuane (Williams 86), Kane, Brannagan (Henry 46); Whyte (Holland 69), Taylor, Sykes. Subs: Plumley, Forde, Agyei, Bodin.

REF: James Oldham (Derbyshire)

A hammerblow

There have not been many times in recent weeks when this could be said, but Rovers deserve some credit for what they produced tonight.

Granted, they could have - and probably should have - been blitzed out of sight in the first half but for a lack of ruthlessness from dominant Oxford.

But their second half efforts were far better and they made a real game of it. And so Branden Horton’s equaliser was well deserved, given the manner in which they fought to wrestle themselves back into the contest.

So it was cruel when James Henry lashed in with three minutes to go - but that’s how things go when you’re in Rovers’ position.

This is one however that they can take confidence from as they head into a massive game this weekend.

9.36pm ALL OVER


FOUR minutes

87min GOAL Oxford

James Henry smashes Oxford back in front.

Cruel. Very cruel.

The ball sat up kindly for the substitute who lashed a shot in from 20 yards.

84min Wide

Sykes sends over a cross from the right and Taylor meets it but cannot divert it on target.

79min Oxford should be back in front

Matty Taylor had a free header in the middle of the goal but somehow turned it wide. A let off for Rovers.


Branden Horton slams Rovers level!

Horton carried the ball from half way and kept going until powering into the box and drilling a low effort into the far corner.

It’s been so much better from Rovers in the second half and they’ve got their reward!

69min Substitution

Omar Bogle makes his big return to action as he replaces Aidan Barlow.

65min Goal...but no

Gavin Whyte has the ball in the back of the net after being played in clear on the right but he was offside.

64min Big opportunity

Jordy Hiwula finds space on the left and powers forward but scuffs his shot from a good position.

61min Well over

Tommy Rowe gallops into space from half way and unleashes a shot from 25 yards which flies over the bar.

53min Should be 2-0

Oxford have just missed a glorious opportunity to double their lead - or more specifically Gavin Whyte.

Lirak Hasani was caught on the ball as the deepest player when staying back for a corner and Oxford broke clean through with Whyte racing clear. Louis Jones came out as far as he could within his box and Whyte blinked first, looking to slot under the Rovers keeper who blocked the effort with his leg.

51min Goal....but no

It looked as though Oxford had ended Rovers’ bright start when Matty Taylor pulled clear at the back post and headed home Gavin Whyte’s cross but he was flagged for offside.

48min Chance

Rovers have started the second half really positively with the change in personnel and shape bearing early fruit.

Branden Horton picked out Jordy Hiwula with a pull back and the winger fired over the bar.

47min Change of shape

Rovers are now lining up with a 4-2-3-1

Hasani - Knoyle - Anderson - Horton

Smith - Galbraith

Rowe - Barlow - Hiwula


8.47pm Back underway

Matt Smith takes the kick-off and we’re back up and running


Jordy Hiwula and Joe Dodoo replace Tiago Cukur and Ben Blythe for Rovers.

Meanwhile James Henry is on for Cameron Brannagan for Oxford.


A goal down at the break and decidedly second best. Rovers have it all to do in this game and are somewhat fortunate to only be one goal behind.

Oxford have thoroughly dominated the ball and seem to be able to play through Rovers at will. Rovers on the other hand cannot keep possession.

The Rovers midfield four are being pushed incredibly deep as they attempt to shield against the Oxford middle three. It means that when Rovers do win the ball back, the gap to the attacking players is huge and the space is all too easy to close down for the visitors.

There’s 45 minutes to go but not a great deal of hope for Rovers if the pattern of the game continues in this manner.


And Rovers trail by a goal at half time


ONE minute

41min Almost catastrophe

Gavin Whyte gets free on the right and lashes a shot from the corner of the box which Louis Jones bats down and sees squirm through his legs, only to be saved by the upright and claim at the second attempt.

39min Wide

Cameron Brannagan looks all set to double Oxford’s advantage after steaming into the area but he puts his shot narrowly wide.

34min Better

The last few minutes have been much better from Rovers. They’ve looked after the ball to keep possession in the opposition half and shown decent patience to keep the attack going.

And they’ve actually had an attempt on goal with Tom Anderson powering a back post header from a corner which Oxford keeper Simon Eastwood held well.

28min The Oxford fans are ole-ing

And there’s 28 minutes gone. And they’re 1-0 up.

That just tells you everything you need to know about how this game is progressing at the moment.

The visitors are dominating the ball and look incredibly comfortable in possession.

Rovers on the other hand cannot hold onto the ball for more than a few seconds without giving it away.

23min Free kick

Louis Jones claims the ball outside his box and gives away a free kick and earns a yellow card for his trouble. He has been fortunate in the past to get away with doing the same.

Oxford have a dangerous free kick on the right.

But Tiago Cukur blocks the delivery well.

21min Just not working so far

There’s far too much space behind the Rovers wing backs and Oxford are exploiting it with aplomb. Balls into the channels are sending Sykes and Whyte scurrying away time after time and the back three of Rovers is narrow to deal with the midfield runners.

It took a fine block from Anderson to prevent a Whyte ball from reaching Matty Taylor in the middle.

19min Another chance

Rovers are again easily played through as Sam Long gets free at the byline and drills a ball across the box where Sykes collects at the far posts and goes for goal from a similar angle that he scored from. This time Louis Jones saves well.

16min GOAL Oxford

Mark Sykes slams Oxford in front.

Rovers simply could not deal with a surging run from Gavin Whyte who broke through several tackles. Even when it looked as if he had lost the ball, he poked it out to Sykes who poked in on the angle to put the visitors ahead.

Far too weak from Barlow, Hasani and Knoyle in defending against the Whyte run.

13min Fairly cagey so far

There’s not been a great deal in this game so far and it’s pretty open in the middle of the park.

2min Chance

Oxford go close early. It’s all so easy for Marcus McGuane, who skips past Ethan Galbraith into space and hits the byline. He cuts a pass back to Cameron Brannagan who brings the ball under control on the edge of the box and drills a low shot which is narrowly wide.

7.44pm Underway

Oxford’s Matty Taylor takes the kick-off and we’re up and running

The team is in

And it’s three changes from the side that started the defeat to Mansfield at the weekend.

But the biggest news is the return from the cold of Omar Bogle and Ed Williams, who are both on the bench this evening.

Out from the side go Joe Dodoo, Jordy Hiwula and Liam Ravenhill, who all drop to a bench that suddenly looks a lot stronger and more experienced.

Coming into the side are Ben Blythe, Tiago Cukur and Ethan Galbraith, who returns from injury.

And the visitors

Former Rovers loanee Herbie Kane starts for Oxford

It’s going to be a tough old night

A side on a four-match run of defeats, six without a win in the league, sitting six points from safety.

Another unbeaten in ten and their season on the up.

It’s going to be a difficult one for Rovers as they look to claw some ground back in the relegation dogfight in League One.

Gary McSheffrey takes charge of his second game as Rovers caretaker boss, looking to lift confidence following the FA Cup exit at the hands of Mansfield Town at the weekend.

And he will again do it in horrendous conditions as Storm Barra strikes South Yorkshire.

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