Rotherham United: Up to fourth as wins keep on coming ... Millers 3 Oxford 1
On the eve of Valentine's Day, Rotherham United's love affair with winning grew ever stronger.
The Millers triumphed for the fifth match in succession to take their unbeaten run to 12 matches and move up to fourth place in the League One table.
They were pushed hard by a slick Oxford side who never stopped running or probing. But Rotherham are made of stern stuff these days and could have scored more than the three goals they managed.
Paul Warne’s men were a threat every time they went forward, have now hit the net in 25 consecutive games and have won nine of their last dozen outings.
The question isn’t so much ‘will they hold on to a play-off place?’ as ‘just how high in the top six can they go?’.
“I’m pretty pleased,” said Warne. “The lads are doing okay at the moment. I’m not jumping for joy at the performance, but a win is a win.
“We started well but after we went 1-0 up we weren’t making the right decisions on the ball. We were better in the second half. It’s good to win 3-1 and know we can play better. Oxford are a great footballing team.”
Rotherham went in front in stunning style after only seven minutes. David Ball fed Anthony Forde and the winger produced a 20-yard shot of such devastating pace that it was nestling in the net almost before goalkeeper Simon Eastwood saw it.
They were nearly two up six minutes later when Forde’s superb cross was was met by the head of Michael Smith only for Eastwood to brilliantly touch the ball on to the post.
Richie Towell did grab a second, in the 29th minute, guiding the ball in after Eastwood had parried a Joe Newell shot into his path.
The home side’s pressing was pinning Oxford back in their own half at times, but the visitors were back in it two minutes before the break when James Henry produced a ‘Forde’ moment to fizz a fierce shot from the right past Marek Rodak.
A minute later, Rotherham appeals for a penalty went unanswered when Ball was about to tap the ball into the net and appeared to be impeded by Eastwood.
The Millers wore red and the visitors were blue only eight minutes into the second half.
Star man Forde had made his mark early in the opening period and now his 45-yard driving run and cross saw cross Smith steer the ball home and restore the Millers’ two-goal advantage.
Substitute Caolan Lavery was inches from connecting with a Smith cross before Ryan Ledson’s long-range effort brought a superb stop from Rodak as the pace never wavered.
Next up for Rotherham is a trip to Shrewsbury Town who have leapfrogged Wigan Athletic to top the table.
Smith, after his third goal in four starts since his January move from Bury, said: “I’m thoroughly enjoying it here. It’s a great group of lads and the gaffer believes in all his players.
“He’s had multiple chats with me since I came here and that’s really helped me. His message to me is to run and work hard and the goals will come. The fitness levels here are incredible. We get so many balls into the box.”
The last time the Millers went unbeaten for longer was in 2014 when Steve Evans’ League One promotion side didn’t lose for 16 matches from January 11 to April 8.
Sugar is sweet, but nowhere near as much as this run the Millers are on.
Rotherham (4-4-2): Rodak; Emmanuel, Ajayi, Wood, Mattock (Ihiekwe 38); Forde; Towell, Vaulks, Newell (Taylor 80); Ball (Lavery 72), Smith. Subs not used: Price, Palmer, Williams, Yates.
Oxford (4-2-3-1): Eastwood; Kane, Dickie, Mousinho, Smith-Brown; Ledson, Ruffels; Buckley-Ricketts (Napa 64), Henry, Rothwell (Ricardinho 74); Thomas (Mehmeti 60). Subs not used: Shearer, Martin, Mowatt, Carroll.
Goals: Forde 7, Towell 29, Smith 53 (Rotherham); Henry 43 (Oxford).
Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).
Attendance: 7,707 (360).