OXFORD United let a two-goal lead slip to draw a chaotic game at home to Rotherham United.

Joe Newell put the visitors ahead, but the hosts roared back to lead 3-1 late in the first half.

Jack Payne, Josh Ruffels and Curtis Nelson were all on target in a terrific spell which also saw Ryan Ledson have a penalty saved by Marek Rodak.

Rotherham looked like they were going to get blown away in the wind, but crucially got a foothold just before the break through Ryan Williams.

It kept them in the game and with the U’s unable to kill off it after the break, Sky Bet League One’s top-scorer Kieffer Moore bagged an equaliser.

The point, United’s second in as many games at home to fellow high-fliers, meant they dropped out of the top-six on goal difference.

A hip injury ruled out Christian Ribeiro, so Canice Carroll came into the side in the only change to the starting line-up from Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Charlton Athletic.

All the pre-match concern was on the impact Storm Brian would have on the game, with gusts of up to 50mph forecast.

While conditions were not as bad as feared, they did contribute to a game where defending proved difficult.

An even opening 20 minutes gave little hint of what was to follow for the rest of the first half.

When a deep cross came in from Josh Emmanuel, Carroll could only head the ball back into the danger area for Newell to bury a volley.

But the lead lasted barely a minute, with United conjuring an immediate equaliser.

Ruffels’s clever flick found Payne in a pocket of space and from 20 yards his shot found the far corner.

United had their tails up and all of a sudden Rotherham began to struggle.

Wes Thomas lashed wildly off target after Alex Mowatt robbed Will Vaulks in his own half, a signal the hosts were getting on top.

They led on the half-hour mark.

Ryan Ledson’s well-judged ball into the wind was perfect for James Henry. The midfielder pulled the ball back for Ruffels, whose shot crept in at the near post.

It was a terrific way to celebrate his new contract, signed yesterday, and his 24th birthday on Monday.

United had a golden chance to make it 3-1 within three minutes when Ricardinho showed great skill to get in round the back.

His cross was blocked by Will Vaulks’s hand, but from the resulting penalty Ledson saw his effort saved by Rodak.

Oxford Mail:

  • Ryan Ledson sees his penalty saved in the first half

It was a blow, but only a temporary one.

In the 40th minute United did move two goals clear, when Payne’s wicked corner sparked a scramble in the six-yard box which was ended by Nelson prodding into the net.

The hosts had the wind in their sails, but Rotherham mustered a response before the break.

A long throw from Vaulks was flicked on to former U’s loanee Williams to beat Simon Eastwood from close range and make it 3-2.

The game continued to rattle along after the interval.

Eastwood tipped over a shot from Joe Mattock, while Rodak denied Payne at the end of a flowing move.

United did not carry the same level of attacking threat as they had in the first half, though.

They breathed a sigh of relief midway through the half, when Nelson was unable to deal with a long ball and Moore stretched out his right boot.

The ball looped over Eastwood, but despite heading into the wind it landed on the top of the crossbar and bounced over.

Carroll headed wide from Payne’s corner in the best chance of a good spell from United, before Rotherham hit back.

Some last-ditch defending kept them at bay for a while, but 12 minutes from time the Millers drew level.

Nelson’s ball forward was cut out and the visitors broke for Williams to slide in a cross which Moore buried.

The striker had the ball in the net three minutes later, but the header was ruled out for a push.

Back came United and substitute Joe Rothwell had a good chance to put United in front again, but his shot was too close to Rodak, who parried to secure the point.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Eastwood, Carroll, Nelson, Mousinho, Ricardinho, Ledson, Ruffels, Henry, Payne, Mowatt (Rothwell 63), Thomas (Obika 79).

Unused subs: Shearer, Martin, Williamson, Tiendalli, Xemi.

Booked: Carroll, Ledson.

Rotherham Utd (4-1-4-1): Rodak, Emmanuel, Ajayi, Ihiekwe, Mattock, Vaulks, Williams, Towell (Taylor 68), Newell, Forde, Moore.

Unused subs: O’Donnell, Ball, Clarke-Harris, Yates, Cummings, Wood.

Booked: Vaulks, Mattock.

Referee: Sebastian Stockbridge (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance: 7,471 (608 visitors).