Liam nips in as the U’s strike late again
MICHAEL APPLETON knows the resilience of his players and was not suprised to see lightning strike twice.
Liam Sercombe’s 88th-minute winner, bundled home on a rebound, was the difference here.
It was Oxford’s second last-gasp home win in a row and involved all three substitutes.
“The last ten minutes or so of games have been good to us,” said the Oxford manager. “We changed our shape a little bit at half-time and that helped. The first ten minutes of the second half was our best spell.
“With the lads that came on, there’s a real willingness to do well for each other as a squad. As long as we keep picking up results and picking up points, going into the second third of the season, that’s when you’re going to see the best of Oxford United.”
It was a largely scrappy and dour first half, with Rochdale’s Andy Cannon and Oxford’s Joe Rothwell coming close.
Oxford substitute Marvin Johnson, signed from Motherwell on deadline day, nearly pounced on the hour when Conrad Logan dawdled on a bouncing back pass, but the Rochdale goalkeeper managed to recover and dive onto the ball.
In the final 20 minutes Rochdale were largely dominant, Niall Canavan skimming the crossbar after a corner and Peter Vincenti poking an effort inches wide.
But the game was Oxford’s at the death. The superb Johnson burst forward from the left and drilled a low cross towards Ryan Taylor who scuffed his shot, but Sercombe was on hand to bundle the ball home.
Dale manager Keith Hill felt his side should have had a penalty in the second half when Vincenti went down, but admitted his team’s errors were costing them dear.
“It’s a combination of mini mistakes that’s absolutely destroying our identity. We have to put that stick-on smile on and come out fighting,” Hill said.
“I expect a bit more composure in front of goal. It’s not hard luck, you make your own. The difficulty is you’ve got to keep going and plough your way through. That’s what I expect of the players.
“How we’ve lost another game like that, it’s inexplicable. We should have had a penalty, it’s a stonewaller and I don’t know how it’s a free-kick for Oxford.
“It’s cruel. Life’s cruel, football’s cruel and football’s part of life.”
STAR MAN CHRIS MAGUIRE Oxford