THE AESSEAL New York Stadium was rocking at the final whistle as Rotherham United earned their first victory since August as Izzy Brown’s first-half strike proved the difference against Queens Park Rangers.
In an enthralling opening, Brown’s well-taken effort gave Paul Warne’s side the lead at the interval and despite Joe Newell and sub Jon Taylor squandering second-half opportunities, the Millers’ shut out Ian Holloway’s side to earn their first win in 16 games.
Following their narrow defeat at the hands of Burton Albion last time out, the Millers made three changes to their starting line-up for the visit of the West Londoners.
Tunisian international Aimen Belaid was given an opportunity to impress at the heart of the Rotherham rearguard as he made first start since January while the Millers were given a pre-match boost as club talisman Lee Frecklington was passed fit following a knee injury to take his place in the home engine room.
Following an impressive substitute cameo at the Pirelli Stadium, Newell was rewarded with a starting berth as last week’s starters Will Vaulks, Taylor and Dominic Ball had to settle for places on the substitutes’ bench.
The Millers were quick out the blocks and they had the first sight of goal when Frecklington pounced on the loose ball before exchanging passes with Brown and the Millers’ skipper burst into the box to power an effort which forced Alex Smithies into a smart save.
Moments later, Danny Ward got the better of Joel Lynch to drill a shot which was smartly smothered by Smithies before the Millers were indebted to Lewis Price for keeping the scores level as he pulled off a top-drawer save to deny Conor Washington, whose effort from just outside the box was destined for the top corner of the goal.
From the resultant corner, Lynch rose highest to power a header which flew past Price but Darnell Fisher was well-stationed to clear from his own line before Yeni Ngbakoto got on the wrong side of Richard Wood, in the visitors’ next attack, before firing a low effort from distance but Price managed to palm the ball to safety.
In an action packed start, Joe Mattock had the opportunity to deliver an inviting centre which saw Ward dart infront of his marker to glance a header which fizzed narrowly wide of the target before Tjaronn Chery released Nedum Onuoha, at the other end, and the ex-Manchester City defender planted a low cross between Price and the Rotherham rearguard and Belaid was forced to stick out a leg but fortunately, for the home defender, Price had time to change his trajectory on his goal line to smother the ball to safety.
Moments later, Sandro tried his luck from distance but his ambitious effort failed to trouble the home goal before Newell raced away from Massimo Luongo with a minimum of fuss to deliver a sumptuous centre which was just inches away from the advancing run of Ward, who would have had a tap-in, if he was able to make a connection.
Following an entertaining opening, it was the Millers, who broke the deadlock following a superb run and finish from Chelsea loanee Brown.
There looked little danger until Brown injected pace into the move to play the ball into the path of Ward, whose deft flick, paved the way for Brown to race clear of a static Hoops defence and the mercurial midfielder kept his nerve to strike the ball from the edge of the box into the visitors net, by calmly wrongfooting Smithies in the process.
The visitors responded positively to the setback and Ngbakoto’s cross-cum-shot had to be headed behind by Mattock before Jake Bidwell blazed an effort into the home faithful after the Millers had failed to clear the resulting corner decisively.
Moments later, Conor Washington left Wood grasping at thin air before his slide-rule pass presented Chery with the opportunity of striking goalwards but Price showed good reflexes to keep the ball out with his feet.
Just past the half-hour mark, Newell’s pass was controlled smartly by Anthony Forde, who got the ball out of his feet to strike a dipping effort from distance which proved awkward for Smithies, who bundled the ball to safety.
With half-time approaching, Luongo’s error saw Frecklington clip a fantastic cross to the far post but the unmarked Tom Adeyemi was unable to get the ball under his spell, as it rolled away from his path.
In the last action of the half, Ngbakoto became the first to see yellow for a late tackle on Fisher, as the Millers full-back looked to make a clearance down the touchline.
Half-time- Rotherham United 1 Queens Park Rangers 0
There was a flurry of bookings at the start of the second half as Luongo joined Ngbakoto in the book for a cynical lunge on Belaid before Adeyemi became the first home player cautioned for a high tackle on Sandro, in the next phase of play.
Minutes later, Adeyemi was harshly adjusted to have hauled over Chery in an inviting position and the QPR midfielder almost exacted retribution from the resultant free-kick with a fantastic effort which sailed over the Rotherham wall before bringing the best out of Price, who was forced to tip over smartly.
At the other end, Ward’s neat flick gave Brown the opportunity to shoot from distance and he drilled a low effort which was smothered by Smithies before Ngbakoto won a tussle with Mattock before drilling a fierce effort across the face of the home goal.
Minutes later, Forde’s pass gave Newell the chance to swing a delightful centre into the box and with numerous Rotherham runners, Wood emerged from the pack and the no-nonsense centre-half attempted to bundle the ball home from close range but Smithies was his equal to keep the ball out.
Wood was in the thick of the action and Forde’s corner looked inch-perfect for the home centre-half, but off-balance and under pressure from visiting defenders, his glancing header fizzed past the upright.
With the game in the balance, Chery had two bites of an opportunity as his initial effort was blocked before his follow-up shot was bravely headed over the bar by Wood.
Sub Sebastian Polter made an immediate impression for the wrong reasons as he yellow-carded for a late foul on Fisher before Rotherham had faint appeals for a spot kick as Newell appeared to be hauled down by Lynch in the box but the referee refused to point to the spot.
Minutes later, Frecklington’s first time ball saw a footrace between Ward and Grant Hall which saw the Millers striker come out on top to fire a low effort which had Smithies nervously scurrying across goal as it whizzed narrowly wide of the target before Fisher and Chery tangled in the home box, but no action was taken by the referee.
With just over ten minutes to go, the Millers missed a gilt-edged chance to seal the deal when Brown’s perfectly-weighted pass paved the way for Ward to take aim at the Hoops goal and his rasping effort struck the underside of the post and bar before rolling tantalisingly into the path of Newell, who seemed to get the ball under control before spooning the ball over with the goal at his mercy, albeit with his weaker right-foot.
Newell almost made amends, in the next home attack, as he worked an opportunity to strike and his left-footed effort from the edge of the box saw Smithies parry behind.
From the resultant corner by Forde, Wood rose highest to plant a header which arrowed towards goal but sub Ben Gladwin stuck out a timely leg on his own line to hack the ball clear.
Good work by Brown and especially Frecklington, who burst into the box, presented Forde with the opportunity to strike but Smithies got his body behind his shot before sub Taylor didn’t make the best out of a two-on-one opportunity as he elected to shoot despite having Ward free to his left, before Onuoha managed to deflect his effort over the bar.
In their last opportunity of note, Polter headed wide for the visitors as the final whistle brought great acclaim for the Rotherham players from the home faithful.
Full-time- Rotherham United 1 Queens Park Rangers 0
Rotherham United 1
Queens Park Rangers 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Price, Mattock, Wood, Forde, Frecklington, Ward, Fisher, Newell (Kelly 90) Adeyemi (Vaulks 85), Belaid, Brown (Taylor 86). Unused- Bilboe, Ball, Blackstock, Yates.
QPR- Smithies, Bidwell, Hall, Onuoha, Lynch, Cousins, Washington, Chery (Wszolek 89), Luongo, Ngbakoto (Polter 59), Sandro (Gladwin 72). Unused- Ingram, El Khayati, Henry, Shodipo.
Referee- J Simpson