The Millers added some festive cheer to the Christmas period with a superb 1-0 win over Yorkshire rivals Bradford City at the Coral Windows Stadium on Boxing Day.
Haris Vuckic was the hero with the only of the game as Steve Evans’ side came out on top in a tightly contested derby in West Yorkshire, meaning the Millers have beaten the Bantams in their last six meetings while extending their unbeaten run in League One to eight games.
Evans made one change to the side that drew 3-3 with Wolves at the weekend, with Alex Revell returning in attack to fill the void left by the recently recalled Nouha Dicko.
The Yorkshire derby started energetically as both sides looked to take hold of the game early on and the hosts forged the first half chance of the game after three minutes.
A short free-kick routine allowed Kyel Reid room for a cross, only to his delivery loop over the head of the lurking figure of Nahki Wells in the area.
The hosts displayed more evidence of work on the training ground on set-pieces on ten minutes, when after a number of gestures prior to the free-kick, Gary Jones whipped a dangerous cross in which flashed across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.
The Millers had a good chance of their own after some astute defending from James Tavernier allowed Craig Morgan the opportunity to release Revell in behind the Bradford rearguard, only to see the Milers’ number nine thwarted by some good recovery work from the hosts.
Steve Evans lost the services of Wigan Athletic loanee Dicko on Monday, but his absence was forgotten on 20 minutes as another temporary acquisition made the breakthrough for the Millers on 20 minutes.
Lee Frecklington’s powerful surge forward saw him find Kieran Agard, who laid off Newcastle United loanee Vuckic, who applied a wonderful curling finish which rippled the top corner of Jon McLaughlin’s goal to give the Millers the lead.
The visitors settled into the game following the opener and came close to a second moments later after Revell found Agard as the Millers broke out of defence, before he unleashed a low drive at goal which McLaughlin saved well at his near post.
However, the Millers were dealt a blow just as they had found their rhythm as Claude Davis was withdrawn and replaced by Rob Milsom, in a substitution that saw Kari Arnason slot into the heart of the defence.
Intent on not remaining behind for long the hosts went in search of an equaliser and would have got one had it not been for some splendid goalkeeping from Millers’ stopper Adam Collin.
The chance came ten minutes before the break when McBurnie picked the ball up inside the area, before he turned and teed up Garry Thompson in acres of space at the back post, whose thunderous drive at goal was expertly turned behind by Collin to preserve the Millers’ lead.
Half-Time: Bradford City 0 v 1 Rotherham
Evans was forced to reshuffle his pack once more at the break, with Joe Skarz replacing the goalscorer Vuckic, as Tavernier adopted a place in midfield and Agard moved into the attack.
The second stanza started much the same as the first and the first shot on target came after just 120 seconds. It was the Millers who had it as Frecklington unleashed an effort from 25 yards which McLaughlin had to be alert to collect.
Moments later, Stephen Darby’s cynical challenge on Agard earned him a yellow card and the Millers a free-kick right on the edge of the area. Pringle and Tavernier both stood over the ball but it was the latter who hit a crashing drive at goal which McLaughlin had to be at his best to bat away from the top corner.
The hosts would have been pleased to see out an opening five minutes which saw them weather a storm from the Millers and got off lightly when Arnason headed a Pringle corner onto the crossbar, only to be penalised for a push in the box.
Wells had faced a physical battle against a resilient Millers’ defence in the first half but almost escaped the attentions of Morgan and Arnason when he cut inside and fired a tame effort at goal which Collin gathered easily.
Tavernier looked just as comfortable in the midfield berth as he did at full-back in the first half and showed his attacking prowess when he coasted in unmarked at the far post, before unleashing a powerful effort at goal which flew over the crossbar.
The on-loan Newcastle United defender continued to threaten the host’s defence and was within inches of a second goal for the Millers when he charged down the right before firing a low shot at the far post which McLaughlin expertly tipped around the far post.
The Millers began to dominate proceedings at the Coral Windows Stadium and found themselves with two wonderful chances to extend their lead.
The first opportunity arose when Agard strode towards the Bantams goal as the visitors found themselves 3 v 2 against the defence, but the Millers’ top scorer’s decision to go alone resulted in his shot being blocked on the edge of the area.
Bradford were clearly in search of an equaliser and found themselves outnumbered on the counter-attack once more as Pringle sprinted forwards, before trying to release Tavernier at the back post, only to see his pass cut out by the backtracking Jones.
The industrious running of Agard had caused the Bantams problems all afternoon and he almost got his reward five minutes from time when he recovered possession high up the pitch before looking for Pringle in the box, only to be denied by an outstretched Bantams leg.
The Bantams then threw the towering figure of Luke Oliver onto the field before proceeding to repeatedly launch the ball forward in search of an equaliser, but a resilient Millers’ defence stood firm to ensure that Evans’ men returned to South Yorkshire with all three points.
Full-Time: Bradford City 0 v 1 Rotherham
Bradford City: McLaughlin, Darby, McHugh (Oliver 84), Bates, Meredith, Reid, Jones ©, Doyle, Thompson (Yeates 56), McBurnie (Connell 73), Wells.
Unused: Ripley, Ravenhill, Kennedy, Taylor.
Millers: Collin, Bradley, Davis (Milsom 24), Morgan ©, Tavernier, Agard, Arnason, Frecklington, Pringle, Revell (Mills 93), Vuckic (Skarz HT).
Unused: Shearer, Brindley, Skarz, O’Connor, Tidser.
Attendance: 18,218 (2,501 Away).