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Oxford United 2 Rovers 2

27 April 2019

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A first-half goal from John Marquis coupled with a second-half own goal secured an important draw for Rovers on the road at Oxford United.

A point means Rovers are four points clear of seventh place Peterborough United, however the Posh still have two matches remaining.

Grant McCann made three changes to his team which suffered a home defeat to Accrington Stanley on Tuesday evening with Ben Whiteman, James Coppinger, and Andy Butler included in the starting line-up and Tom Anderson, Alfie May and Ali Crawford dropping to the bench.

Karl Robinson made a massive six changes from his side which defeated Shrewsbury Town on Easter Monday, these included goalkeeper Jack Stevens who is replaced by Simon Eastwood and Ahmed Kashi who was serving a ban after picking up a red card in the previous game.

Rovers registered their first shot on around five minutes with Coppinger attempting to chip goalkeeper Eastwood from twenty yards, soon after a slip from Nico Jones on his full debut almost set John Marquis through on goal but some shrewd defending pushed the Rovers no.9 wide, narrowing the shooting opportunity.

No amount of smart defending could help the home side moments later, Mallik Wilks' skill bought him a yard of space and he dug out a cross to the far post. Marquis rose highest and nodded past a stranded Eastwood.

Rovers delight would be short-lived. Marcus Browne equalised just five minutes later, Cameron Brannagan's pass found the winger on the edge of the box but Browne still had it all to do, fast-feet took him around the Rovers' defence before he slotted the ball through the legs of Marko Marosi to draw the score level.

Like the scoreline, the match was even. Rovers blocked shots from Jerome Sinclair, James Henry, and Browne on the edge of the box, while Matty Blair's cross took an unfortunate deflection off Jones and looked to be creeping in if not for the alertness of Eastwood.
Danny Andrew has been in fine scoring form recently and - with more than a little encouragement from the travelling Rovers fans – he tried his luck from distance.

Both Coppinger and Herbie Kane hit crosses which couldn't quite find their intended target.
Butler continued to thwart Oxford - putting his body on the line to deny the home side opportunities to shoot on numerous occasions.

At the other end, another slip by Jones affording another opportunity to Marquis. Jones recovered enough to catch up with the striker on the edge of the box, but referee Charles Breakspear saw nothing wrong with the challenge, Oxford broke quickly but Gavin Whyte's effort was blocked by Marosi.

The wind had been a factor for the entire first half, the unique set up of Kassam Stadium (with one end completely open) does make for a bit of wind-trap and while Marosi's goal-kicks were flying close to 70 yards, Eastwood's were holding up mid-flight, dropping somewhere inside his own half. This was particularly true when an unfortunate gust of wind dropped the ball directly into Marquis' path, the striker fired his shot on the spin, but Eastwood was able to get down to make the stop.

Marquis was in the mix again soon after, Kane found him with a cross field pass which, with the wind behind it, was slightly over-hit, however, a smart backheel from the no.9 found Coppinger who was able to pick out Rowe at the edge of the box. The skipper's first-touch let him down and the chance was gone.

Oxford came closest to grabbing a second just before the break when Sinclair headed Branagan's cross from a free-kick goalward but Marosi was there to make the stop at his near post.

McCann opted to make a change at the break with Paul Downing making way for Tom Anderson. There was no change in the weather, however, and Rovers would be facing a tough half playing into the wind.

Oxford got off to a blistering start and had the ball in the net within seconds of the restart but Jerome Sinclair's tap-in from close range was ruled out for offside.

Oxford really did take the lead just minutes later in an almost carbon copy of their disallowed goal – this time is was James Henry who tapped in from close range and James Henry would have the ball in the net again as sent a half-volley into the top-corner, but the officials had spotted a handball in the build-up for that one.

While only one had counted, Oxford had had the ball in the net three times in the opening five minutes of the second half and McCann decided it was time for a change with Tommy Rowe making way for Kieran Sadlier. The Irish international almost made an immediate impact, hitting a half-volley just inches wide with his first touch.

Despite the blistering start from the home team, it would be Rovers who registered the next goal. Andrew drove down the left, got beyond his man and whipped in a wicked cross which was turned in by young centre back Jones to even the score.

Oxford hit back almost immediately with Marosi called upon to make a big save in order to deny Browne from distance and with that stop, the match resumed a more normal pace.

Both sides had a few additional half-chances, Mallik Wilks had the best of them for Rovers as he turned James Coppinger's cross into the side netting and headed Andrew's cross just wide.

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