ROTHERHAM UNITED bounced back to winning ways in fine style as they brushed aside the challenge of Accrington Stanley with a minimum of fuss at the New York Stadium.
Despite a first stanza dominated by the Millers, the home side found themselves on level terms at the interval as Craig Lindfield cancelled out the home opener whereby Tom Eckersley unfortunately put through his own goal.
However, super-sub Daniel Nardiello made a dramatic introduction to bag his 11th and 12th league goals of the campaign to put the game beyond Stanley before Michael O’Connor put the icing on the cake with a superb effort from distance near the end.
Following their Boxing Day defeat at the hands of Port Vale, Steve Evans reshuffled his pack with three changes to the home starting line-up.
Huddersfield loanee Liam Ridehalgh was recalled at the expense of Jack O’Connell at left-back while winger Courtney Cameron was handed a starting berth with Ben Pringle dropping to the bench.
Following a number of substitute cameos, Kieran Agard was handed his first league start of the campaign partnering Alex Revell as leading scorer Nardiello was named among the substitutes.
For Stanley, Cameron Belford eased their goalkeeping worries as he was drafted in from Bury yesterday while one-time England international James Beattie led their attack.
The Millers started on the frontfoot and they had the first sight of goal when O’Connor’s floated free-kick saw Mark Bradley balloon a header skywards and with Belford only able to punch to the edge of the box, Revell hoicked the ball goalwards but Beattie was well-stationed to volley the ball to safety.
Moments later, Revell flashed a header wide of the target before a long punt forward fortuitously released Agard, who advanced menacingly towards goal but with Michael Liddle in hot pursuit, the ex-Yeovil striker fluffed his shot over the bar when he really should have done better.
The Millers were looking the most likely and after Cameron’s inswinging free-kick was only half-cleared to the edge of the box, Lee Frecklington showed clever footwork to control and volley towards goal forcing Belford to tip the ball around the post as it arrowed towards the bottom corner.
In Stanley’s first attack of note, Beattie curled a delicate free-kick around the Rotherham wall from 25 yards which had Andy Warrington nervously scurrying across goal.
However, the Millers were rewarded for their early dominance with the deserved breakthrough on 14 minutes.
Following a period of home pressure, Kari Arnason hurled a bullet-like throw into the danger area looking for the head of Revell, but in attempting to clear, Eckersley inavertedly headed the ball over Belford into the unguarded net.
The Millers were visibly lifted by the opener and after O’Connor’s clever footwork saw him evade the attentions of Craig Lindfield, he flashed a vicious cross across goal which almost saw Liddle plant the ball into his own goal before another delicious O’Connor delivery moments later paved the way for Revell, to climb highest but bizarrely his unmarked header failed to trouble Belford.
Moments later, another Arnason exocet caused indecision in the Stanley backline and Cameron’s mis-hit shot fell kindly for Johnny Mullins, who poked the ball narrowly wide of the target before a mistake from Eckersley released Agard, who showed the visitors’ a clean pair of heels but despite looking a likely scorer, Belford stood up tall to block his drilled effort with his legs.
Agard’s frustration heightened as he saw yellow for a late lunge on Peter Murphy in the next phase of play before Stanley stunned the home faithful by levelling matters five minutes before the interval.
After Rotherham failed to clear the danger, an innocuous ball into the box from the left flank found Lindfield on the edge of the box, who weighed up his options as Rotherham failed to close him down and he punished them to the full as he struck a rasping effort which beat the outstretched hand of Warrington before nestling into the far corner of the goal.
With half-time approaching, Mullins missed a guilt-edged chance to restore the home lead when he blazed his point-blank header over the bar from another gift-wrapped O’Connor set-piece.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 1 Accrington Stanley 1
Following the restart, both sides started sluggishly until Frecklington’s snap half-volley from the edge of the box had Belford scrambling across goal.
Minutes later, Ridehalgh skipped past Charlie Barnett with a minimum of fuss before fizzing a centre which Liddle diverted to safety with Agard lerking on his shoulder.
Evans attempted to spark the home side into life with the double introduction of Nardiello and Kayode Odejayi with half-an-hour remaining.
The switch almost paid dividends immediately when Nardiello latched onto a loose ball before unleashing a fierce effort which stung the palms of Belford, before the Stanley stopper snatched the ball at the second attempt from the on-rushing Agard.
However, Nardiello was not to be denied as he put Rotherham in the driving seat minutes later as they snatched the lead for the second time.
Following Arnason’s long-throw, Stanley failed to clear the danger and a glancing clearance fell kindly into the path of Nardiello, who guided his far post header back across goal and into the far corner of the goal.
However, Rotherham’s joy almost proved shortlived as Lee Molyneux’s clipped centre was met by Beattie, whose delicate volley was arrowing into the bottom corner until Warrington’s late intervention.
Moments later, the Millers’ were again thankful to their veteran stopper as Molyneux’s instinctive effort had him at full stretch before Beattie was denied from an acute angle.
Odejayi then saw yellow for needlessly kicking the ball away before Rotherham sealed the game thanks to Nardiello’s second goal of the afternoon.
Following a ball into the left channel, Agard showed clever footwork to pull the ball back into the path of Ridehalgh, who fizzed a tantalising centre which saw the prolific striker ghost in between two static defenders to power his header past a hapless Belford from six yards.
The Millers were running riot and O’Connor’s effort from distance almost deflected past a motionless Belford before the Northern Ireland international finally put his name on the scoresheet with 12 minutes remaining to cap a polished individual and team performance.
After Stanley failed to clear an initial O’Connor corner, the ball found it’s back at the feet of the combative midfielder and with no Stanley defender looking to charge him down, he capitalised to the full as he drilled an effort which Belford got a hand to before it nestled in the bottom corner of the visitors’ goal.
In stoppage time, a swift counter-attack led by Agard gave Nardiello a glimpse of his hat-trick goal but despite showing clever footwork to evade his marker, his low effort was smartly smothered by Belford.
O’Connor’s long range effort almost caught out Belford at his near post before Agard headed over from O’Connor’s corner from the resultant corner.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 4 Accrington Stanley 1