OXFORD United slipped into the bottom half of the Sky Bet League One table for the first time since October as they were outgunned and outmuscled by in-form Rotherham United.

James Henry’s excellent strike was the only highlight for the visitors, who lost for the fourth time in five league games.

By the time the midfielder struck late in the first half they were already 2-0 down against a Millers side who had looked too strong for their opponents.

Anthony Forde’s fierce shot opened the scoring and although Simon Eastwood made an astonishing save to deny Michael Smith, it only delayed the second goal, which came from Richie Towell.

Smith restored the two-goal advantage seven minutes after the break, which always looked like being enough to win the game.

United kept plugging away, but need to stop the rot quickly or they will have to start looking nervously over their shoulders in the spring.

Rob Dickie came into the side for his debut, replacing Aaron Martin, but United’s hopes of a clean sheet lasted seven minutes.

Rotherham had already forced three corners before Forde blasted the opening goal, showing all the confidence of an 11-game unbeaten run brings.

The Millers moved the ball quickly to find the midfielder on the edge of the box and the sheer power in his shot caught out Eastwood at his near post.

Despite the ferocity on the strike, the goalkeeper might have felt he could have done better – but he quickly made amends.

Michael Smith looked certain to score with a header from Joe Newell’s cross, only to see Eastwood get a hand to the point-blank effort and turn it on to the post before gathering on the line.

It was one-way traffic, though, as the U’s were hassled into mistakes all over the pitch.

Chances kept coming and there was little surprise when the second goal arrived, on 29 minutes.

Again, Eastwood made a good save to keep out Newell’s shot, but with Ashley Smith-Brown on his heels, the ball fell for Towell to tap in the rebound.

United had barely had the ball in their hosts’ half, but falling 2-0 down saw them splutter into life.

Millers goalkeeper Marek Rodak was forced into his first action in the 35th minute, getting a touch on Isaac Buckley-Ricketts’ shot after Joe Rothwell had put the winger through on goal.

It looked a costly miss, but United got on the board two minutes before the break.

Neat build-up on the right involving Buckley-Ricketts and Todd Kane found Henry, recalled to the starting line-up, on the edge of the box.

He darted past one challenge and with many expecting a cross he managed to pick out the top corner at Rodak’s far post.

United then got a slice of fortune when Newell’s cross fell to David Ball, who rounded Eastwood and with the net gaping went down under a challenge from John Mousinho.

It looked a certain penalty, but the U’s skipper escaped unpunished.

The reprieve ensured the visitors were still in the game at half-time – and Josh Ruffels’ low shot shortly after the restart looked encouraging.

But just as United threatened to make a game of it, they fell 3-1 down.

Forde continued his good night by surging down the right, running through Smith-Brown before squaring to give Smith an easy finish.

The game became more open as the half wore on, with United having to take more risks in search of a way back.

Rotherham threatened on the break, but the killer touch deserted them as the visitors rode their luck.

While the U’s had plenty of the ball in the final third, Rodak was not stretched until the 83rd minute when he turned Ryan Ledson’s swerving long-range effort over the crossbar.

It was too little, too late for the visitors.

Rotherham Utd (4-4-2): Rodak, Emmanuel, Ajayi, Wood, Mattock (Ihiekwe 38), Forde, Vaulks, Towell, Newell (Taylor 79), Ball (Lavery 72), Smith.

Unused subs: Price, Palmer, Yates, Williams.

Booked: None.

Oxford Utd (4-2-3-1): Eastwood, Kane, Dickie, Mousinho, Smith-Brown, Ledson, Ruffels, Henry, Buckley-Ricketts (Napa 64), Rothwell (Ricardinho 73), Thomas (Mehmeti 60).

Unused subs: Shearer, Carroll, Martin, Mowatt.

Booked: None.

Referee: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance: 7,707 (360 visitors).