HUDDERSFIELD Town showed their promotion credentials by coming from behind twice to secure a last-gasp victory over Rotherham United thanks to Tommy Smith’s late winner.
Millers interim manager Paul Warne will be scratching his head over how his side failed to grab any reward from a pulsating encounter after one of their best performances of the season.
Semi Ajayi’s first goal for the club put the Millers ahead but any home joy was short-lived as Joe Lolley soon levelled matters.
In the second half, Tom Adeyemi’s screamer put Warne’s side back in front but Huddersfield fought back strongly for a second time when Elias Kachunga nodded home from close range before Smith was the West Yorkshiremen’s match winner with an arrowed drive from the edge of the box.
Following their hard-fought draw with Blackburn Rovers at the weekend, Millers interim manager Warne made two changes to his starting line-up for the visit of the high-flying Terriers.
Will Vaulks was recalled to the Millers engine room while Jerry Yates was given an opportunity to partner Danny Ward in a 4-4-2 formation as Anthony Forde and Richie Smallwood were named on the substitutes’ bench.
There was a familiar face in the Town line-up as Izzy Brown returned to the AESSEAL New York Stadium following his impressive loan spell with the Millers during the first half of the season.
Brown was in the thick of the action in the visitors’ first attack when Richard Wood’s clearance ricocheted into the path of the Chelsea playmaker, who exchanged passes with Collin Quaner but he was crowded out before he could get his shot away.
At the other end, Taylor’s free-kick seemed to catch the Huddersfield defence napping as they kept a high line and the ball bypassed Wood before falling invitingly for Adeyemi, who looked to guide the ball towards goal but his bundled effort flew harmlessly wide of the target.
Moments later, Aaron Mooy delivered a tantalising centre which evaded visiting runners before Lolley fired a snap shot which was straight down the throat of Richard O’Donnell.
However, it was the Millers, who made the breakthrough on 12 minutes after Adeyemi had an initial shot deflected wide.
Taylor planted the resultant corner into the danger area and Wood emerged from the ruck of bodies into the box to plant a downward header which was blocked by Lolley, on his own goal line but Ajayi was on-hand to bundle the ball into the visitors net from close range.
The Millers were having some joy from Huddersfield’s insistence on defending a high line and it almost proved their downfall once again when Taylor’s free-kick was flicked on by Ajayi into the path of Yates, who calmly stroked the ball into the heart of the Terriers net but any Rotherham joy proved short-lived as the goal was chalked off for an offside flag.
In a lively opening, Huddersfield levelled matters when Brown injected pace into a visitors move and after his run was halted on the edge of the box, Lolley pounced on the loose ball to calmly stroke a precise left-footed effort which beat the outstretched hand of O’Donnell to find the corner of the Millers net.
The Millers responded superbly to the setback and Newell twice came close to restoring the home side’s lead when his cross-cum-shot had to be tipped over by Danny Ward before his left-footed effort, in the home side’s next attack, was blocked en-route to goal by Michael Hefele.
From the resultant set-piece, Taylor and Wood again combined to great effect when the home skipper rose highest to loop a header which narrowly cleared the Town crossbar.
Just before the half-hour mark, Adeyemi dwelt in possession and fine one-touch football from the visitors paved the way for Philip Billing to take aim from long range and his rasping effort fizzed narrowly over the Millers bar.
Moments later, Brown’s instinctive effort stung the palms of O’Donnell, who gathered at the second attempt before Mooy became the next to call the Rotherham stopper into action with a bobbling effort from the edge of the box.
The Millers were indebted to Wood for preserving parity when Brown looked well-set to tap home until the home skipper’s timely intervention after Kachunga’s marauding run into the box had left both Stephen Kelly and Adeyemi in his wake.
Kachunga almost went provider to finisher with a stinging drive from distance which forced O’Donnell into a smart save before Ben Purrington showed great awareness to prevent Quaner from latching onto Brown’s pass with the goal at his mercy.
Half-time- Rotherham United 1 Huddersfield Town 1
Following the interval, the home fans had their hearts in their mouths when Lolley cut inside with menace to fire a fierce effort which was initially spilled by O’Donnell before the Rotherham ‘keeper recovered smartly to snuff out the danger before Danny Ward got the by line to fizz a centre which was inches away from the head of Taylor.
Moments later, Brown clipped an inviting centre which saw Kachunga get a yard on his marker to power a header which narrowly cleared the Rotherham crossbar before Newell’s inswinging free-kick saw Wood, once again, get on the wrong side of the Town defence to plant a header which was gathered by Danny Ward on his own goal line.
Moments later, Huddersfield failed to clear the danger and Purrington pounced on the loose ball to fire a low effort which was smartly smothered by Danny Ward before Billing was the next to test O’Donnell with a stabbed effort.
Just before the hour mark, Purrington was nudged over by Quaner on the edge of the box but Taylor failed to make it count from the resultant free-kick when he blazed an effort into the home faithful before Ajayi had to be on his toes to divert Quaner’s cross-cum-shot to safety at the other end.
The visitors missed a gilt-edged chance to take the lead when sub Rajiv Van La Parra’s mazy run presented the opportunity for Tommy Smith to clip a centre which was inch-perfect for the near post run of Kachunga, but the German striker bizarrely missed the target from just yards out.
Minutes later, Brown dragged a shot harmlessly wide of the target before Billing was the quickest to react from Mooy’s pinpoint corner and his header threatened the far post.
With the game in the balance, Rotherham took a grip on the game with 19 minutes remaining when Huddersfield failed to clear decisively and Adeyemi picked up the loose ball before unleashing a rasping drive from around 25 yards which flashed past the attentions of Danny Ward to find the corner of the Terriers net.
The goal seemed to spring the visitors into action and Kachunga’s close range effort was snaffled by O’Donnell but the home side failed to head the warning after Van La Parra’s shot was deflected behind by Ajayi.
From the resultant corner, Mooy planted a superb centre into the danger area and Kachunga emerged from the host of bodies in the six-yard box to nod home, in the tightest of spaces, giving O’Donnell no chance as it found the heart of the Millers goal.
Brown’s return to South Yorkshire was soured when he was carded for cynically hauling down sub Richie Smallwood and Rotherham almost exacted retribution from Taylor’s free-kick when Newell fired wide.
The game was swinging end to end and Vaulks ghosted away from his marker to meet Taylor’s corner but Danny Ward pulled off a superb acrobatic save to deny the Millers midfielder.
At the other end, Mooy took advantage of no Rotherham defender closing him down as he unleashed a fierce drive from distance which whistled narrowly over the home goal.
In the dying minutes, Mooy’s dipping corner almost caught out O’Donnell as it flew harmlessly over before Huddersfield secured the three points in dramatic circumstances when Rotherham failed to clear their lines and Smith latched onto the loose ball on the edge of the box and the Huddersfield full-back kept his nerve to drill a low effort which arrowed past a motionless O’Donnell to find the far corner of the home goal.
Full-time- Rotherham United 2 Huddersfield Town 3
Rotherham United 2
Huddersfield Town 3
Teams:- Rotherham- O’Donnell, Kelly, Vaulks, Wood, Danny Ward (Blackstock 73), Taylor (Mattock 87), Ajayi, Newell, Adeyemi, Purrington, Yates (Smallwood 67). Unused- Bilboe, Forde, Bray, Ekstrand.
Huddersfield- Danny Ward, Smith, Billing, Kachunga, Mooy, Holmes-Dennis, Lolley (Van La Parra 62), Quaner (Wells 62), Schindler, Brown (Payne 80), Hefele. Unused- Coleman, Whitehead, Hudson, Cranie.
Referee- S Attwell
Attendance- 10114 (2583).