ROTHERHAM UNITED breathed new life into their League Two promotion charge by putting fellow challengers Northampton Town to the sword at New York Stadium.
Following indifferent home form of late, Daniel Nardiello notched his 14th goal of the season from the spot to put the Millers in charge before second-half strikes from Ben Pringle and David Noble saw Steve Evans’ coast to a much-needed victory.
Following their disappointing home reversal at the hands of Bristol Rovers last time out, the Millers made four changes to their starting line-up.
Mark Bradley returned at the expense of Dale Tonge in the right-back slot while Icelandic international Kari Arnason reverted to a central defensive position as recent signing Claude Davis, was ruled out through suspension following his sending-off last week.
Following his cameo substitute appearance against Rovers, Noble returned to start in the heart of midfield as Lee Frecklington was ruled out with a knock while Jordan Slew was immediately thrown into the fray after putting pen-to-paper on a two-month loan stint from Blackburn Rovers on transfer deadline day.
The visitors started brightly and they had the first sight of goal when a ball was drilled into the feet of Adebayo Akinfenwa, who showed clever footwork to evade the challenge of Johnny Mullins, before drilling a low effort which was smothered by Andy Warrington.
Moments later, Chris Hackett cleverly exchanged passes with Akinfenwa, paving the way for a glimpse of the target but under pressure he blazed his shot well over the bar.
In the Millers’ first foray of note, Slew showed fleet of foot to evade the attentions of Kelvin Langmead and Clarke Carlisle before releasing Kayode Odejayi, who cut inside on the edge of the box before curling an effort which was arrowing into the bottom corner until Lee Nicholls’ late intervention.
Following back-to-back corners, Pringle floated an inswinger to the front post and Slew showed great invention to backflick the ball towards goal but the ball rolled tantalisingly wide of the upright.
With the game finely poised, the visitors’ came within a whisker of the breakthrough when Jake Robinson cut inside from the left flank leaving Pringle in his wake before unleashing a rasping drive from distance which swerved in the air before crashing against the upright and then rolling to safety, to the Millers’ relief.
With half an hour on the clock, quick thinking from Noble saw a free kick played into the channel and Nardiello outmuscled Joe Widdowson before firing a cross-cum-shot which almost caught Nicholls out at his near post, as it cannoned against the outside of the upright.
Moments later, the Millers were again denied by the woodwork when a fantastic outside of the boot pass from Michael O’Connor switched play to the rampaging Liam Ridehalgh, whose first time cross flashed across the box but with Nicholls just a bystander, the ball smashed against the crossbar.
The Millers were rewarded for the pressure just five minutes before the interval when Northampton failed to clear a Ridehalgh cross and Bradley pounced on the loose ball before being tripped just inside the box by Ben Harding, leaving referee Miller no option but to point to the spot.
From the resultant penalty, Nardiello kept his composure to calmly send Nicholls the wrong way before finding the corner of the goal to notch his 14th goal of the season in all competitions.
In the aftermath of the goal, Nardiello celebrated by blasting the ball into the jubilant home faithful and was duly booked by the referee on their return to the centre spot.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 1 Northampton Town 0
Following the interval, Rotherham started with a positive intent and after Northampton failed to clear decisively, Pringle nodded the ball into the path of Slew, whose instinctive first-time effort looked destined for the far corner but Ben Tozer bravely blocked his effort.
Seconds later, Nardiello rampaged through the heart of the Cobblers’ rearguard before fizzing a low effort which forced Nicholls into a smart save.
The ex-Barnsley striker came within inches of notching his second of the afternoon minutes later as he was the first to meet Pringle’s inswinging corner but he couldn’t control his header as it dribbled across the goalmouth.
The Millers were looking the most likely and Bradley swung a delightful centre which was met by the head of Odejayi, but his header blazed wide of the target.
However, against the run of play, Akinfenwa worked a shooting position for Hackett, and although his first effort was blocked by retreating defenders, his second strike forced Warrington into a superb reflex save.
Just past the hour mark, Bradley saw yellow for hauling down Widdowson in full flight before Rotherham almost notched their second when Pringle danced around Carlisle with a minimum of fuss before pulling the ball back into the path of Odejayi, whose cushioned ball saw Ridehalgh crash a fierce drive which wizzed narrowly over the crossbar.
However, the Millers were not to be denied as they gave themselves a much-needed cushion with their second goal on 75 minutes.
A ball forward from Ridehalgh was flicked on inavertedly into the path of Pringle, who pounced on the loose ball and after weighing up his options, he superbly drilled a stinging drive into the far corner of goal giving Nicholls no chance.
The Millers were running riot at this stage and they put the game beyond doubt with their third on 79 minutes.
The home side turned defence into attack with the blink of an eye and Nardiello rounded Tozer with ease before curling an effort which forced Nicholls into a full-stretch save but Noble was quick to capitalise on the loose ball by lifting the ball before calmly stroking the ball home from six yards.
O’Connor came within a whisker of adding a fourth with a delicate free-kick from just outside the box which Nicholls was forced to parry over, before the ex-Scunthorpe midfielder left the fray to a standing ovation.
Despite the home dominance, the visitors had the final say with effectively the last play of the match when Hackett’s superb delivery found the head of Carlisle, whose point-blank header gave Warrington no chance.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 3 Northampton Town 1
Rotherham: Warrington, Bradley, Mullins, Arnason, Ridehalgh, Pringle, O’Connor (Agard 84), Noble (Kearns 86), Nardiello (Cameron 90), Slew, Odejayi.
Unused: Thompson, Revell, Morgan, Rowe
Northampton Town: Nicholls, Widdowson, Guttridge, Langmead, Harding, Akinfenwa, Hackett, Tozer, Robinson (Platt 71), Oyeleke (O’Donovan 46), Carlisle.
Unused: Johnson, Demontagnac, Snedker, Moult, Hornby.
Attendance: 7739 (956)