Rotherham United’s second-half blitz put local rivals Sheffield United to the sword infront of a sell-out New York Stadium.
The Blades had the advantage at half-time thanks to Jose Baxter’s strike but second-half efforts from Kieran Agard, Daniel Nardiello and Rob Milsom saw Steve Evans’ men turn the game on it’s head and cap a memorable Sheffield double after dumping Sheffield Wednesday out of the Capital Cup earlier in the season.
With talismanic duo Kari Arnason and Michael O’Connor absent because of their international call-ups with Iceland and Northern Ireland respectively, Evans was forced to reshuffle his pack with Claude Davis returning at the heart of the home rearguard.
Recent recruit Pablo Mills was entrusted with the holding midfield role on his second home debut for the Millers following his cameo substitute role at Notts County last weekend, while Richard Brindley was handed a start with Mark Bradley ruled out by injury.
In front of a red-hot atmosphere, the Blades almost stunned the home faithful in the early minutes when Florent Cuvelier was upended by Craig Morgan in an inviting position just outside the box.
From the resultant free-kick, Tony McMahon struck a fantastic effort which curled over the home wall before crashing against the underside of the bar but fortunately for the Millers, the ball failed to cross the line and was cleared by a retreating home defender.
At the other end, Joe Skarz lumped a hopeful ball into the box but with the visitors’ defence and ‘keeper Mark Howard in no-mans’ land, the onrushing Brindley lobbed the ball into the danger area but Harry Maguire was on-hand to clear the danger.
Minutes later, Lee Frecklington pounced on a loose ball in the heart of midfield and with the visitors’ defence playing a high line in a bid to play Alex Revell offside, the ex-Peterborough midfielder spotted a gap to bisect the defensive line but as he advanced menacingly towards goal, he dragged his shot wide under pressure from Conor Coady.
In a fast start, the Millers had a lucky escape when Chris Porter got on the wrong side of Davis, who appeared to trip the Blades frontman just inside the box but referee Andy D’Urso waved away visitors’ appeals for a spot kick.
Morgan then saw yellow for a cynical lunge on Matt Hill but the visitors’ failed to punish the home side from the resultant free-kick when McMahon blasted over from a promising position.
The Millers’ were given a shooting opportunity of their own when Cuvelier tripped Milsom just outside the box but Ben Pringle smashed the free-kick against the Blades’ wall before visitors’ skipper Michael Doyle blasted a volley into the home kop from distance.
Just shy of the half-hour, Scott Shearer raced from goal to tackle Porter as he looked to latch onto a punt forward before clever footwork from Frecklington paved the way for a floated cross which was met by the head of Milsom, but his powerful header whizzed narrowly over the bar.
With neither side on top, the Blades took a grip on the proceedings when they broke the deadlock eight minutes to half-time.
Following the award of a throw on the right flank, a quick release caught the Millers napping and Baxter got on the wrong side of Mills near the byline and from an acute angle, threaded a low shot which beat Shearer before nestling in the far corner of the goal.
Half-time:- Millers 0 v 1 Sheffield United
The Millers were quick out of the blocks in the second stanza and Pringle’s floated ball fell invitingly for Revell, who scuffed an effort goalwards but Neill Collins bravely blocked his point-blank effort.
With the words of Evans ringing in their ears, the Millers’ levelled the scores minutes later with a goal which came out of the blue.
There looked little danger when Kieran Agard pounced on the loose ball but the ex-Yeovil frontman took a touch before striking a fearsome effort from distance which appeared to swerve in the air and the ball flew past Howard, who was helpless as the ball flew into the visitors’ goal.
Just shy of the hour mark, McMahon flashed a cross which almost saw Baxter connect on the volley before Davis was fortunate when he appeared to nudge Porter in the box as he looked to latch onto a tantalising centre moments later.
Minutes later, a quick throw released Pringle, whose first time cross saw sub Nardiello get on the wrong side of his marker but he failed to control the ball before Maguire was on-hand to snuff out Revell’s fizzed centre in the next phase of play.
With the game finely poised, a superb one-two involving Pringle and Frecklington saw the latter strike an effort from distance which stung the palms of Howard before Pringle’s dipping volley blazed over the bar.
However, the Millers took a firm grip on the encounter by taking the lead with eighteen minutes remaining.
The ball fell at the feet of Nardiello in the box, who cleverly twisted in the box before being nudged over by McMahon and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
From the resultant penalty, Nardiello dusted himself down and kept his nerve as he blasted the ball past the despairing dive of Howard to find the corner of the net.
The Millers were sniffing blood and they effectively sealed the game minutes later when Revell pounced on a mistake by the United rearguard and despite being temporarily held up by Maguire, the ball was placed into the advancing run of Milsom, who controlled smartly before firing a low drive from the edge of the box which beat the outstretched hand of Howard before smacking the inside of the post enroute to the net.
The Blades’ frustration was summed up when McMahon saw yellow for speaking out of turn to the referee and Pringle almost rubbed salt into their wounds when his superb free-kick had Howard at full stretch as the ball arrowed towards the far corner.
With time running out, Agard skipped past Maguire with a minimum of fuss before striking a low effort which was blocked by Howard at his near post before Ryan Flynn was the next to find himself in the book following a late tackle on Brindley in the dying minutes.
Fullt-time: Millers 3 v 1 Sheffield United
Millers- Shearer, Brindley, Davis, Morgan (Nardiello 46), Skarz, Mills, Milsom, Agard, Frecklington, Pringle, Revell. Unused:- Collin, Hylton, Tubbs, Tidser, Rowe.
Sheffield United- Howard, McMahon, Maguire, Collins, Hill, Flynn (Bunn 70), Coady, Cuvelier, Doyle, Baxter, Porter (Taylor 70). Unused:- Willis, Westlake, McGinn, Ironside, McFadzean.
Referee:- Andy D’Urso
Attendance:- 11758 (2536)