By Gerry Prewett.
Looking at the history of games between the teams, there have been 59 meetings since Oxford first entered the League back in the mid 1960’s. In terms of results the games between the teams have been fairly even over the years with Rovers winning 24, United 20 and 15 draws.
In recent seasons Rovers have certainly had the upper hand with 8 wins, 3 draws and defeats in the last 14 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 keeper, 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.
The most goals scored in a Rovers’ home game was a stunning 6-2 win at the end of the 2000/01 relegation season, which ended up being meaningless as Rovers’ season fell apart at the death. That 2 goal haul was only the second time the U’s have managed two goals on Rovers territory. However the next time they registered that number at the Mem was in 2002/03 season when they secured a 2-0 win.
United opened the scoring on 21 minutes, Adam Chapman fed the ball into Jake Forster-Caskey, who turned and shot on the edge of the area. Alfie Potter doubled Oxford’s lead just after the half hour mark, after a slip from Michael Smith near the half way line. The Oxford winger made a great solo run, and slotted the ball home past Walker in the Rovers goal.
In the early season televised home game in 2015/16 Rovers, who had started the game strongly, but were reduced to 10 men with just over 15 minutes played as Ollie Clarke was shown a straight red by referee James Linington for an elbow on Oxford midfielder Danny Rose (a decision that was later overturned).
Numbers were evened up just before the hour mark as, following some neat interplay by Jermaine Easter and Matty Taylor, Taylor was bundled to the ground by Liam Sercombe who was shown his second yellow of the game.
On 62 minutes the away team’s Kemar Roofe was allowed space to shoot on the edge of the area and curled a superb shot into the top right hand corner of the goal with the ball clipping the crossbar on its way past a helpless Aaron Chapman.
In 2016/17 a Jermaine Easter goal on 25 minutes gave Rovers the lead before Kane Hemmings, equalised for United just before half-time. The packed Mem was in raptures as Matty Taylor secured all three points with 20 minutes to go to secure a 2-1 home win.
On 14 October 2017 United won a closely fought game 1-0 in front of a 9,656 crowd. The best chance of an open, entertaining first half fell to the visitors after 20 minutes when James Henry completely mishit his shot from 12 yards after a low cross from Christian Ribeiro had given him a clear sight of goal.
Rovers also created opportunities, but went closest through a spectacular 20-yard volley from Chris Lines just before the break, which flashed narrowly wide. Rory Gaffney had the ball in the net for Rovers early on, but was judged offside from a Tom Nichols flick-on.
Substitute Alex Mowatt fired an 82nd-minute winner with a low left-footed shot from the edge of the box after a mistake by Tom Broadbent had allowed James Henry the chance to cross from the right.
It was a game littered with yellow cards, Ollie Clarke, Rory Gaffney and Liam Sercombe for Rovers and James Henry, John Mousinho, Christian Ribeiro and Joe Rothwell for United.
The 2018/19 game saw the teams fight out a 0-0 draw.Oxford defender Curtis Nelson nodded against the foot of a post from a 40thminute free-kick, and Tom Nichols saw a 62ndminute header bounce back off the crossbar.
Oxford deserved to be ahead at the interval but Shandon Baptiste had a shot cleared off the line by Tom Lockyer before being substituted with a shoulder injury after 41 minutes.
Jack Bonham made fine low saves to keep out shots from Marcus Browne and James Henry.
After the break, with Nichols, Ed Upson and Kyle Bennett all went close to getting on the scoresheet.
The 2019/20 fixture had a great deal of tension as it saw the first return to the Mem of former hero Matty Taylor, who was booed every time he touched the ball. Oxford took a 27th-minute lead when midfielder Ben Woodburn latched onto the ball 25 yards out in a central position and sent a low right-footed shot past Anssi Jaakkola into the bottom corner. They then lost Taylor, with a leg injury after 32 minutes.
Ed Upson drew Rovers level 10 minutes after the opener, driving a right-footed volley from a similar position at the other end beyond the reach of diving goalkeeper Simon Eastwood.
Rovers went ahead just before the interval, Josh Hare crossing from the right for Jonson Clarke-Harris to rise above his marker and head firmly past Eastwood. Tom Nichols made sure of the points, firing in from an angle in the 77th minute after Ollie Clarke's run and pass had created the opening.