MATTY Taylor scored a poacher’s finish to win a bruising game for Oxford United and send them into the Sky Bet League One play-off positions.

The striker had been kept quiet for almost an hour at the New York Stadium, but showed all his predatory instincts to be in the right place to head in Cameron Brannagan’s cross.

It settled a game against Rotherham United which had been billed as a real test of United’s credentials – and it lived up to it.

While the hosts were not at their best, they were big, strong and powerful.

Those qualities were shown in Michael Ihiekwe’s equaliser, although Simon Eastwood will feel he should have beaten the centre back to the ball.

But United stood up to the challenge and when it mattered had moments of quality, as shown in Tariqe Fosu’s stunning opener.

Coming a week on from a 3-0 win over Doncaster Rovers, Karl Robinson’s side are deservedly among the division’s frontrunners.

The teamsheet showed both players United had worries over earlier in the week – Alex Gorrin and Matty Taylor – were fit to start.

Elliott Moore replaced the suspended Rob Dickie, while Taylor came in for Jamie Mackie up front.

United were bracing themselves for a tough test and they took time to establish a foothold in the game as the Millers pressed high from the first whistle.

But the visitors dug in to get through a scrappy opening 20-minute period, before striking the first blow midway through the half.

There appeared little danger with Matt Olosunde on the ball just outside his own box, but Cameron Brannagan did superbly to outmuscle the full back and regain possession.

He squared to Fosu, who jinked on to his left foot before unleashing a rocket which flew in just inside the far post.

United survived a penalty shout as Rotherham sought an instant response. Matt Crooks’ ball across the box found Jake Hastie, whose low shot hit Cadden on the leg before rebounding on to his arm before bouncing clear.

It saved a goal and the Millers’ appeals for a spot kick were ignored by referee Scott Oldham.

The U’s though were on top and it took a smart save from goalkeeper Daniel Iversen to deny Brannagan from Fosu’s pass.

John Mousinho had a chance when the resulting corner was flicked on, but the skipper could not keep his header down.

For a moment it looked like Rotherham were rocking, but they hit back to level ten minutes before the break.

It came from a move started and finished by Ihiekwe. The centre back powered forward from his own half, with United players bouncing off him as he made ground.

When Michael Smith crossed to the back post, Crooks’s header into the danger zone was nodded in by Ihiekwe, who climbed above a flat-footed Simon Eastwood.

Rotherham looked the more dangerous side in the run up to half-time and it took a superb piece of defending from Chris Cadden to tackle Crooks in the box after the midfielder had surged through the middle.

United were sloppy at the start of the second half, but just like the start of the game they notched with their first meaningful attack.

Fosu launched a counter-attack with a sublime piece of skill, only for the danger to appear to have passed as the momentum slowed.

But Ruffels crashed into a tackle 30 yards out to win the ball back and from Brannagan’s in-swinging cross Taylor popped up in the six-yard box to nod in.

It began an incredible five minutes where Rotherham were left clinging on.

Iversen made an astonishing point-blank save to deny Taylor, while Mousinho had a shot deflected over.

United were on top, a fitting way to play out the minute’s applause in tribute to Andy ‘Womble’ James. Both sets of fans joined in, as they had in the first half to mark the loss of Rotherham fan Charlie Hunter.

There was still a quarter of the game remaining, but while Rotherham pushed hard for an equaliser they lacked quality on the final ball.

Eastwood was not stretched until stoppage time, when he got down superbly to prevent an own goal from Cadden.

Fosu hit the post in the final seconds, but it did not matter as the referee confirmed a very hard-won three points.

Rotherham Utd (4-4-1-1): Iversen, Olosunde, Ihiekwe, Wood, Mattock, Wiles, Barlaser (Ogbene 66), Lindsay, Hastie (Lamy 77), Crooks (Morris 72), Smith.

Unused subs: Price, Jones, MacDonald, Clarke.

Booked: None.

Oxford Utd (4-3-3): Eastwood, Cadden, Mousinho, Moore, Ruffels, Gorrin, Henry (Long 90), Brannagan, Sykes (Baptiste 74), Taylor (Mackie 85), Fosu.

Unused subs: Stevens, Jones, Hall, Agyei.

Booked: Taylor.

Referee: Scott Oldham (Lancashire).

Attendance: 8,837 (734 visitors).