By Gerry Prewett.
Looking at the history of games between the teams, there have been 57 meetings since Oxford first entered the League back in the mid 1960’s, replacing Accrington Stanley. In terms of results the games between the teams have been fairly even over the years with Rovers winning 24, United 19 and 14 draws.
In recent seasons Rovers have certainly had the upper hand with 8 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats in the last 12 meetings. The best spell of consecutive wins in these fixtures is six for Rovers between 1995 and 2001.
The first game between the two teams was played on 18thSeptember 1965 at Eastville. There were four goals scored, all by Jones, one by Oxford’s Tony, but the star of the day was Rovers’ Bobby who bagged a hat-trick.
However my vivid memory of that day was the Oxford custodian, Harry Fearnley who was smoking during the game! He used to rush into the back of his net whilst play was at the other end and have a quick puff. Also in the Oxford team was "Big Fat" Ron Atkinson, who the Evening Post noted failed to keep a tight grip on Bobby Jones.
It was Rovers who, until recently, had never scored more than 2 goals, but they had scored 2 on 7 occasions. Rovers’ worst defeat at Oxford, until the 6-1 thrashing in 2010/11 in the Coca Cola Cup, was a 4-1 loss on only their second visit to the ground on 2 February 1967. Alfie Biggs was Rovers’ scorer, with doubles by Grahame Atkinson and Mick Morris for the U’s.
Rovers’ next visit, only 7 months later, was much more productive, a mid-week 2-0 victory with goals by Harold Jarman and an own goal by John Shuker sent the Eastville faithful home happy.
It wasn’t until September 1995 that the victory was to be repeated when the two Marcus’s, Browning and Stewart scoring past Timmy Carter in the U’s goal and Chris Allen scoring for the home team in a 2-1 win for the Gas. Back in 1982 and 1983 Rovers played two Boxing Day games at the Manor, scored 2 goals in both and lost both, 4-2 and 3-2 respectively.
Rovers had a remarkable spell at Oxford between 1995 and 2002. They played there five times, won four and drew the other game. Amongst those victories was a 5-0 thumping, with a hat-trick from Jamie Cureton a Robbie Pethick goal and another by Nathan Ellington, on 22ndJanuary 2000, which looked as though it had set Rovers on the path to promotion.
In the 2012/13 game at the Kassam Rovers took the lead on 54 minutes. The ball was played up to Ryan Brunt, who cut into the area where he was brought down by Oxford skipper Jake Wright.
Brown stepped up to send Luke McCormick the wrong way with his spot kick, but the referee had seen a player encroaching into the area and ordered the penalty to be retaken . Brown kept his nerve, and put his spot kick in the same place as the first, with McCormick again going the wrong way.
Rovers wrapped things up in stoppage time. Once again Brunt was fouled and, as the Oxford defenders switched off David Clarkson found Richards with a quick free kick. The young striker did the rest, running through on goal and beating McCormick in a one on one situation.
Rovers have won on their last 6 visits the latest being a 2-0 victory on 29 December 2018.