ROTHERHAM UNITED stormed into the League One play-off positions with their second victory of the week as they put Gillingham to the sword following a superb display.
The Millers produced a scintillating first-half display to breeze into a three-goal lead at the interval thanks to Noura Dicko’s second goal in as many games before Kieran Agard doubled their advantage.
Ben Pringle added a third to put Steve Evans’ men in control at the break and although Cody McDonald gave the visitors a glimmer of hope, debutant James Tavernier capped a superb individual display with a well-taken fourth.
Following their handsome victory over Coventry City in midweek, the Millers made only one change to their starting line-up with Newcastle loanee Tavernier handed an immediate debut at right-back as Richard Brindley dropped to the bench.
Slovenian international Haris Vuckic was named amongst the home substitutes following his temporary switch from Tyneside while Wigan frontman Dicko was paired with Alex Revell as they looked to build on their impressive midweek showing.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when the Gills failed to clear a Tavernier centre decisively and Michael Tidser struck a fierce effort which was blocked by a retreating Adam Barrett.
Gillingham then launched a quick counter-attack and with the Rotherham rearguard backtracking, Charlie Lee tried his luck from distance but his effort failed to trouble Adam Collin.
Moments later, Kieran Agard’s snap shot was blocked by Joe Martin on the edge of the box before the Millers took a grip on the proceedings by breaking the deadlock on nine minutes.
A long punt forward was flicked on by Revell into the path of Dicko, who controlled smartly before bearing down on last man Barrett on the edge of the box and the Frenchman worked a yard of space on the Gillingham skipper before firing a superb strike which arrowed into the top corner of the goal giving visitors’ ‘keeper Stuart Nelson no chance.
The home side were lifted by the strike and Agard fired wide of the target from the edge of the box before Tavernier’s cross-cum-shot was deflected narrowly wide by the outstretched leg of Martin.
Just shy of the quarter hour, Lee Frecklington unleashed a dipping half-volley which failed to trouble Nelson before the visitors’ stopper had his heart in his mouth when Dicko fired a superb curling effort from the edge of the box which shaved the far post.
The home side were sniffing blood and it was no surprise when they doubled their advantage on 23 minutes thanks to a lightning counter-attack.
Collin smartly gathered a visitors’ corner and a quick throw-out released Dicko, who teased and tormented the Gills’ defence before giving Tidser a sight of goal.
Despite the Scotsman’s effort being blocked, the ball was worked to the left flank where Pringle delivered a tantalising centre which was headed down by Revell into the danger area and with the visitors’ unable to clear, Agard pounced on the loose ball to drill a low effort into the heart of the goal.
The home side were threatening to run riot and Pringle’s corner was only half-cleared before Revell attempted an overhead kick which Nelson parried to safety.
The lively Dicko then stretched his legs to the byline before playing a dangerous centre which Donervon Daniels hacked clear before Pringle’s cleverly worked corner gave Frecklington a shooting opportunity but he spooned his effort wide.
However, Rotherham effectively sealed the victory as early as the 35th minute when they added a third goal.
There looked little danger when Rotherham turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye but Pringle was allowed to advance menacingly to the edge of the box and the ex-Derby midfielder made them pay when he drilled a low shot which beat the last ditch block of Barrett before finding the net past a motionless Nelson.
Things almost got worse for the visitors when Agard pounced on a goalmouth scramble to screw a shot wide of the target before Pringle led a lightning counter attack and with options either side, he released Dicko, whose low effort deceived Nelson but flew the wrong side of the upright.
With half-time approaching, a fine flowing move involving Tidser paved the way for Tavernier to fire a rasping effort which had Nelson at full stretch before Frecklington’s skimming drive was arrowing towards goal until Barrett’s late intervention deflected the ball behind.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 3 Gillingham 0
The Millers started the second half as they finished the first as Agard’s tantalising centre almost gave Dicko a tap-in but Daniels made a last-ditch block before Tavernier danced his way past a couple of challengers before firing a fizzing effort from distance which was arrowing towards the top corner until Nelson’s flying save tipped the ball around the post.
At the other end, McDonald almost sneaked a low deflected effort into the bottom corner before Danny Kedwell blasted high into the stand from the resultant corner.
Just shy of the hour mark, Frecklington stripped Martin of possession on the right flank before advancing into the box to pick out an on-rushing Pringle, but his goalbound shot was blocked by a retreating defender.
Minutes later, Pringle was again in the thick of the action when he dragged a low effort harmlessly wide of the target before Frecklington fired a speculative effort which failed to trouble the visitors’ goal.
Despite the home side’s superiority, Gillingham gave themselves a lifeline with 24 minutes remaining.
A long ball forward was flicked on by sub Adebayo Akinfenwa with his first touch from the bench and McDonald got on the wrong side of Kari Arnason and with the Icelandic international powerless to make a challenge from behind, the Gills frontman kept his nerve to calmly slide the ball past the advancing Collin.
Normal service was resumed minutes later when Agard exchanged passes with Pringle to give him a sniff of goal but as the ex-Yeovil striker attempted to dink the ball over Nelson, the visitors ‘keeper had a stroke of luck when the ball ricocheted into the side netting.
It was no surprise when the Millers restored their three goal advantage with 15 minutes to go when Frecklington’s dinked ball into the box was controlled smartly by Tavernier, who shrugged off the attentions of his closest marker before striking a fierce half-volley into the heart of the visitors’ goal to cap a sublime performance from the home side.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 4 Gillingham 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Tavernier, Arnason, Morgan, Skarz (Brindley 38), Agard, Tidser (Tubbs 88), Frecklington, Pringle, Dicko, Revell (Vuckic 83). Unused:- Shearer, Davis, Mills.
Gillingham- Nelson, Martin, Whelpdale (Hessenthaler 85), Kedwell (Akinfenwa 65), McDonald, Hollands, Harriman, Barrett, Lee, Daniels, Mousinho (Weston 24). Unused:- Howard, Davies, Dack, Carter.
Referee:- A Woolmer
Attendance:- 7152 (248).