Liam nips in as the U’s strike late again

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Chris McHugh

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

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