ROTHERHAM UNITED made it back-to-back victories as they strolled to a comfortable 3-0 victory over relegation-haunted Shrewsbury Town thanks to a first-half blitz.
Steve Evans’ men were quick out of the blocks as Tom Hitchcock grabbed his first Millers’ goal to put them ahead before a stunning strike from Ben Pringle doubled their advantage.
James Tavernier finished off a polished move to add a third within the first twenty minutes and it was cruise control from then on for the visitors, who condemned the home side to a sixth straight home defeat.
Following their victory over Crewe Alexandra last week, the Millers made two changes to their starting line-up with Joe Skarz returning to the side at the expense of Icelandic international Kari Arnason, who was ruled out because of illness.
Newcastle loanee Tavernier reverted to the right-back slot with versatile Mark Bradley partnering Miles Addison in the heart of the Rotherham rearguard.
QPR striker Hitchcock was rewarded for his cameo last week with his first Millers start as Slovenian Haris Vuckic had to settle for a place on the bench while former loanee Tom Eaves was leading the home frontline.
In a quiet opening, the Millers had the first sight of goal when Adam Collin’s punt upfield was flicked on by Alex Revell paving the way for Pringle to have a sight of goal but his drilled drive was blocked by a retreating Connor Goldson.
However, the visitors silenced the home faithful by breaking the deadlock on eight minutes.
Following promptings around the home box, Lee Frecklington’s threaded ball saw Tavernier get a yard on his marker before floating a delicate cross into the path of Hitchcock, who powered a header from just inside the six-yard box which Chris Weale got a hand to before it nestled in the home goal.
The visitors’ joy almost proved short-lived when the Shrews countered straight from the kick-off and after working a shooting position, Eaves struck a low drive from an acute angle which almost caught Collin out at his near post but a combination of the ex-Carlisle stopper and the post preserved the visitors’ lead.
The Millers almost took a firm grip on the encounter moments later when Pringle floated a corner which beat the jump of Addison before Bradley ghosted in unnoticed to power a goalbound header but Weale smartly parried the ball to safety with an acrobatic save.
However, Shrewsbury failed to heed the warning as Rotherham doubled their lead on 17 minutes.
Following fine interplay by the visitors, Tavernier broke clear to fire a fierce effort which stung the palms of Weale but the home side failed to clear their lines and after Hitchcock’s ball across the face of goal, Revell showed great awareness to pick out Pringle on the edge of the box, who fired a superb effort which arrowed into the top corner of the goal giving Weale no chance.
The visitors were sniffing blood and they added a third two minutes later when Hitchcock and Tavernier combined superbly on the edge of the box which released the marauding full-back, who shrugged off the attentions of a home defender, before lifting the ball over the advancing Weale into the roof of the net.
The home side were struggling to find their rhythm and following a long ball forward, the visitors’ had faint appeals for a spot-kick when Ryan Woods appeared to nudge over Hitchcock in full flight just inside the box but the referee waved away Rotherham’s protests.
At the other end, Goldson struck a wild effort which failed to trouble Collin before Rotherham almost added a fourth when Hitchcock gave Kieran Agard a sight of goal, but his rising effort from the edge of the box was deflected over the bar by a home defender.
Just past the half-hour, Joe Jacobson became the first to see yellow for hauling down Agard before Rob Milsom soon joined him in the notebook for halting Sidney
Schmeltz as he looked to break moments later.
With half-time approaching, Eaves struck a tame effort into the grateful arms of Collin before Pringle almost made it four in stoppage time when he curled a superb free-kick from just outside the box which sailed over the home wall before agonisingly cannoning against the crossbar while Hitchcock was inches away from striking the rebound into the unguarded net as the ball rolled to safety.
Half-time:- Shrewsbury Town 0 Rotherham United 3
The Millers continued in a similar vein at the start of the second half when fine interplay involving Hitchcock saw Pringle’s cross being met by the head of Revell, but his looping header was comfortably gathered by Weale.
At the other end, Eaves launched a quick counter down the left flank and after Rotherham failed to clear, Dave McAllister poked an effort goalwards but Addison was well-stationed to head the ball away from goal.
Just shy of the hour mark, Agard’s forceful run into the box was ended by Tamika Mkandawire before Addison rose highest from the resultant corner by Pringle but his towering header was deflected behind.
Minutes later, Hitchcock and Mkandawire saw yellow following a scuffle after a free-kick award and it was the striker’s last action as he left to a standing ovation from the Millers fans while Wes Thomas was granted his debut from the bench following his signing from Bournemouth in the week.
The frontman almost made an immediate impact when he latched onto fine interplay from Agard and Frecklington but his drilled effort was blocked by a retreating defender before Revell blasted over in the visitors’ next attack.
With quarter an hour to go, Frecklington’s whipped cross fell invitingly for Addison but he headed wide of the target before Goldson was booked for a mistimed sliding challenge on Pringle moments later.
The Millers missed a gilt-edged chance to add a fourth when Frecklington capitalised on a weak home backpass but although the visitors’ skipper rounded Weale, he lost his footing as he looked to turn the ball goalwards and the ball squirmed past the wrong side of the upright.
With full-time approaching, Bradley saw yellow when he tripped sub Tom Bradshaw on the edge of the box but Paul Parry wasted the resultant free-kick before Bradshaw almost grabbed a late consolation for the home side but his scuffed effort failed to trouble Collin.
Full-time:- Shrewsbury Town 0 Rotherham United 3
Teams:- Shrewsbury- Weale, Jacobson, Winfield, McAllister, Taylor, Mkandawire, Goldson, Woods, Eaves (Bradshaw 80), Hall (Marsden 66), Schmeltz (Parry 80). Unused:- Anyon, Grandison, Jones, McQuade.
Rotherham- Collin, Skarz, Frecklington, Revell (Vuckic 82), Bradley, Milsom, Pringle (Turgott 87), Agard, Addison, Tavernier, Hitchcock (Thomas 64). Unused:- Shearer, Brindley, O’Connor, Rowe.
Referee:- Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire)
Attendance:- 5116 (650).