ALEX Jakubiak’s double made the difference as Oxford United’s unhappy Christmas continued with a second home defeat in four days.

The former U’s loanee’s goals also extended Bristol Rovers’s winning streak at the Kassam Stadium to six as they climbed above them in Sky Bet League One’s bottom six.

United started as sluggishly as they had on Boxing Day and fell behind to Jakubiak’s opening goal in the 15th minute.

The hosts were unhappy several forceful Rovers challenges went unpunished by referee Graham Salisbury – and his replacement Conor Farrell.

They did enjoy a good spell for 15 minutes either side of half-time, but Gavin Whyte’s effort which struck the crossbar was the closest they came to a goal.

Rovers did appear to be clinging on, but Jakubiak’s second goal following a mistake by Rob Dickie gave them a cushion.

United never really looked like getting back into the game, which only heightens the importance of their clash at fellow strugglers Plymouth Argyle on New Year’s Day.

For the first time in weeks United’s starting line-up was changed, with Sam Long replacing the injured Jamie Hanson.

They were aiming to bounce back from the Boxing Day disappointment against Southend United, but for half an hour it was as if they were playing the same game.

The U’s laboured in possession and were far too careless against a Rovers side fired up by successive victories over Christmas.

The visitors were also packed with former United players, so there was a sense of inevitability when two of them combined to open the scoring in the 15th minute.

Tareiq Holmes-Dennis was given space down the left and when he cut inside to find Jakubiak, the forward was given space and time to drive a low shot into the net from the edge of the penalty area.

United meanwhile looked low on energy and ideas. Gavin Whyte, James Henry and Marcus Browne were all playing with knocks and the latter in particular looked lost, with one slip gifting Rovers a counter-attack.

Another fall, this time from Long, saw Holmes-Dennis get into a dangerous area on 20 minutes, but from his cross Gavin Reilly shot harmlessly wide.

United did not threaten until the 29th minute, when Whyte rattled the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area.

The hosts had appealed for a penalty earlier in the move for what looked holding on Browne. Referee Graham Salisbury waved away the protests, before substituting himself due to injury.

A lengthy stoppage ensued as fourth official Conor Farrell took over.

The new referee allowed several robust Rovers challenges to go unpunished, before finally booking Ollie Clarke in stoppage-time. For a moment he began to flash the red card, but he quickly spotted his own mistake to brandish the yellow.

By then United, urged on by boss Robinson from the touchline, had stirred themselves.

Rovers goalkeeper Jack Bonham was troubled by a 25-yard strike from Brannagan, which he unconvincingly shovelled over his crossbar.

Late in the half he should have been beaten by Browne, but the winger blazed a cross over from close range.

United also started the second half strongly and while Browne continued to struggle on the left, Whyte caused problems on the other flank.

He got into a couple of good positions in the box, but no-one in yellow could get on the end of his crosses.

One went for a corner, from which Curtis Nelson glanced a header just wide.

Rovers were having to dig deep, but just after the hour mark Jakubiak gave them breathing space with his second goal of the game.

He pounced on an error by Dickie, who headed a hopeful ball forward into the air and then lost the ball to give the Rovers forward time to race through and beat Eastwood.

The double surpassed his tally for the entirety of his ten-game spell on loan in 2014.

Slavi Spasov was handed his league debut off the bench, replacing John Mousinho as United went for broke.

They finished in a 3-4-3 system, but it failed to cause Rovers trouble as United’s 2018 ended on a low note.

Oxford Utd (4-3-3): Eastwood, Long (Garbutt 76), Nelson, Dickie, Ruffels, Mousinho (Spasov 67), Brannagan, Henry, Whyte, Mackie, Browne.

Unused subs: Mitchell, Norman, Raglan, Little, Lopes.

Booked: None.

Bristol Rov (4-4-2): Bonham, J Clarke, Lockyer, Craig, Kelly, Rodman, O Clarke, Upson, Holmes-Dennis (Nichols 68), Jakubiak, Reilly (Sercombe 65).

Unused subs: Smith, Lines, Broadbent, Partington, Sinclair.

Booked: O Clarke, Kelly.

Referee: Graham Salisbury (Lancashire).

Attendance: 8,135 (1,475 visitors).