Kieran Agard was the Rotherham United hero as his first-half strike paved the way for Rotherham United to maintain their fine start to the League One campaign with a narrow victory over Notts County.
Following a steady opening, Agard’s second goal of the season put the Millers’ in control and despite the visitors’ failing to add to their tally despite being on top for the majority of the encounter, Steve Evans’ men recorded their second victory of the campaign.
Despite their Capital Cup defeat at the hands of Aston Villa in midweek, Evans kept faith with his starting line-up for the short trip to Meadow Lane.
Striker Daniel Nardiello made a welcome return to the squad following a one-match suspension while Pablo Mills was also given a berth on the bench after putting pen-to-paper on a deal with the Millers’ for the second time yesterday.
The home side had the first sight of goal when Mark Fotheringham floated a free-kick which was met by the head of Gary Liddle but Scott Shearer was on-hand to snuff out the danger.
At the other end, Polish ‘keeper Bartosz Bialkowski flapped at an up-and-under by Ben Pringle before Michael O’Connor blazed an effort well over the bar from distance.
After Lee Frecklington misplaced a pass on halfway, David Bell advanced with menace to strike a fierce effort which stung the palms of Shearer and after the visitors’ failed to clear the danger, ex-Miller’ Jamal Campbell-Ryce delivered a tantalising cross which narrowly evaded the home frontline.
With neither side gaining the upper hand, Agard’s persistence paved the way for Frecklington to fire a rasping effort over the bar before Frecklington and Agard both squandered shooting positions in the visitors’ next attack as O’Connor blasted an effort high into the home stand.
Pringle then floated a free-kick from distance which failed to trouble Bialkowski before the Millers’ took a grip on the proceedings eight minutes before the interval.
Following a County attack, O’Connor fired a long diagonal which saw Agard challenge with last man Mustapha Dumbaya, who appeared to handle the ball as the striker looked to break clear.
The Millers’ made the home side pay with the breakthrough from the resultant free kick when O’Connor’s inswinger was blocked by a ruck of bodies in the box and Agard pounced on the loose ball to slide the ball home from point-blank range.
The visitors’ were buoyed by the opener and Revell almost embarrassed Bialkowski when he charged down his attempted clearance before Frecklington reacted quickest from a Mark Bradley cross but his header whistled past the upright.
Bialkowski then failed to deal with a hanging cross and Pringle missed a guilt-edged chance to slide the ball into the unguarded net before Agard rose unchallenged from a pinpoint O’Connor free-kick moments later but he headed straight into the grateful hands of the home ‘keeper.
With half-time approaching, Bradley punted a controlled clearance upfield which fell invitingly into the run of Alex Revell, whose speculative effort was smothered by Bialkowski as the home side were relieved to hear the half-time whistle.
Half-time:- Notts County 0 Rotherham United 1
Following the restart, the Millers’ continued to press and following clever interplay between Pringle and Rob Milsom, the latter floated a cross which saw Agard glance a header into the hands of Bialkowski.
Frecklington then attempted an opportunistic volley from distance but it flew harmlessly wide of the target before Dumbuya was fortunate to escape further action when he clipped Agard as Rotherham looked to counter quickly.
Minutes later, a superb fine flowing move involving Pringle and Revell put Agard in the clear but the ex-Yeovil striker was unfortunate as his snap shot brushed off Bialkowski as it cleared the crossbar.
In a rare foray by the home side, Enda Stevens caught the visitors’ napping with a quickly-taken free kick but despite having a sight of goal, sub Adam Coombes dragged his shot harmlessly wide of the target.
Fellow substitute Andre Boucaud then saw yellow for a lunge on O’Connor before Revell looped a header over as he climbed highest from a Frecklington centre.
The Millers continued to look the most likely and O’Connor’s piledriver fizzed past the upright before the visitors’ came within a whisker of doubling their advantage when Frecklington broke clear but with home defenders’ hot on his heels, his steered drive towards the bottom corner was parried to safety by Bialkowski.
With time running out, County had faint appeals for a spot-kick when Coombes tumbled under the attempted challenge of sub Mills but referee Carl Boyeson refused to award the penalty before Ronan Murray’s headed over as the Millers’ held firm to bag the three points.
Full-time:- Notts County 0 Rotherham United 1
Notts County- Bialkowski, Dumbuya, Liddle, Leacock, McGregor, Bell, Arquin, Labadie (Murray 87), Campbell-Ryce (Coombes 25), Fotheringham (Boucaud 59) , Stevens. Unused:- Spiess, Smith, Thompson, Nangle.
Rotherham United:- Shearer, Skarz, Arnason (Mills 79), Frecklington, Revell, O’Connor, Bradley (Brindley 67), Milsom, Pringle (Tidser 90), Morgan, Agard. Unused:- Collin, Hylton, Tubbs, Nardiello.
Attendance:- 5428 (1411)