ROVERS’ aggregate travelling following is just shy of 20,000 for their opening nine away trips.

And those who have been among that number have had plenty to savour, witnessing five wins and plenty of impressive defensive performances.

But their opening 23 minute salvo at Oxford will rank among their best away displays of the season and helped cement their place in the top six of League One.

Captain Charlie Mulgrew netted twice with Marcus Antonsson continuing his impressive form in front of goal meaning the game was all but won before it had a chance to take shape.

Oxford’s biggest threat, Jack Payne, handed his side a lifeline on the stroke of half-time but Jonathan Obika’s late second for the hosts was merely a consolation after Joe Nuttall had restored the three goal cushion with 19 minutes remaining.

Both sides came in to the game on the back of impressive away victories

Rovers enjoyed a dream start to proceedings. The warning signs were there for the hosts prior to Mulgrew putting Tony Mowbray’s side in front in the fifth minute.

Derrick Williams had gone close on two separate occasions, once from a Mulgrew inswinging corner and then from six yards as the skipper kept alive a Dack cross at the far post.

The goal came when the skipper tapped in at the far post after Antonsson flicked on a Bradley Dack corner.

The combination of Dack and Marcus Antonsson had worked to great effect for Rovers at Bury last weekend and that pairing helped double the advantage in the 17th minute, although they had a helping hand from Oxford defender Aaron Martin. His square ball was cut out by Dack, the midfielder was denied by ex-Rovers stopper Simon Eastwood in the home goal but Antonsson had the simple job of tapping into the empty net for his seventh of the season.

And an outstanding opening quarter for Rovers was complete as Mulgrew scored his fifth of the season from the spot. Eastwood went the right way but was beaten by the power of the skipper’s penalty, awarded after Dack was tripped in the box by Dwight Tiendalli.

No team in League One had scored more goals than Oxford coming in to this one and they weren’t without fluidity.

A neat move just after the half hour saw them beat the Rovers press, with Williams forced to come across and clear as James Henry looked to pull the trigger.

The visitors were having to stay alert at the back in the face of some slick interplay from the hosts but continued to a carry a threat every time they ventured forward. But the ball wouldn’t fall for them in the Oxford box with Nuttall and Antonsson looking the men most likely to add to the scoreline.

Just when Rovers looked set to go in at the break leading by a three-goal margin, Payne reduced the deficit right on half time to give his side a lifeline. He fired an effort across David Raya from the tightest of angles which went in off the post.

Oxford looked to carry that momentum in to the opening stages of the second period.

The home side did enjoy more of the ball as Rovers became a little careless in possession.

Payne tested Raya with a 25-yarder, with the ‘keeper also forced to tip an overhit Ricardinho cross away as the hour mark ticked by.

A rare foray forward by Rovers midway through the half saw Dack nod wide an Elliott Bennett cross before the hosts made a double switch in a bid to set up a grandstand finish.

But Mowbray’s men snuffed out any comeback as they regained their three goal lead with 19 minutes to go.

Bennett, who had beaten his man twice in quick succession, did so again and his dinked cross was forced over the line by Nuttall.

Oxford sub Obika then twice went close, once denied by a flying Raya save and then heading over a Payne free-kick, before the replacement finally got himself on the scoresheet six minutes from time.

But nothing was to deny Rovers a second win in three days as they saw the game out and continued their quiet march up the table.