RAMPANT Rotherham United earned their seventh victory in nine games as they breezed past relegation-haunted Notts County with a minimum of fuss at the New York Stadium.
The Millers’ shellshocked the visitors with a four-goal salvo in the first half as James Tavernier opened the scoring with a superb free-kick before Haris Vuckic doubled their lead with a deflected effort.
Minutes later, Alex Revell added a third with a long range strike before Kieran Agard notched his 17th goal of the season from the penalty spot.
Vuckic added a fifth in the second half following another deflected strike before sub Tom Hitchcock put the gloss on a polished team performance by adding a sixth near the end.
Following their last-gasp equaliser at Preston North End in midweek, the Millers made two changes to their starting line-up with skipper Craig Morgan making a welcome return to the heart of the home rearguard at the expense of Claude Davis, who was missing because of injury.
Slovenian international Vuckic was given an opportunity to stake a claim for a regular starting spot as Bournemouth loanee Wes Thomas was ruled out because of a thigh injury.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce was a familiar face to the home faithful as he lined up against his ex-club with gaffer Shaun Derry deciding to use him in an advanced role partnering Kwesi Appiah upfront.
The ex-Charlton winger almost came back to haunt his former club in the early minutes when Callum McGregor got the better of Tavernier and after advancing menacingly from the heart of midfield, his superbly-weighted pass gave Campbell-Ryce a glimpse of goal but he screwed his shot across the face of goal.
The visitors made the brighter start and Joe Skarz had to be on-hand to snuff out a dangerous centre from Andre Boucaud before Hayden Mullins screwed a shot harmlessly wide of the target after Rotherham only half-cleared a County corner.
However, the home side stunned the visitors by breaking the deadlock on 12 minutes with their first foray of note.
Ben Pringle won possession on halfway before releasing Agard, who injected pace into the move before his driving run was illegally halted by Kieron Freeman on the edge of the box.
From the resultant free-kick, Tavernier made them pay to the full when he curled a delightful effort which sailed over the County wall and despite ‘keeper Bartosz Bialkowski getting a hand to his shot, the ball nestled in the roof of the net.
The home side were visibly lifted by the strike and they took a strangehold on the proceedings by doubling their advantage four minutes later.
There looked little danger on the right flank until Tavernier curled a ball into the feet of Vuckic, who had his back to goal, but the Newcastle loanee worked a yard of space on his marker to give himself a shooting opportunity and he made no mistake as he fired an effort with his weaker right-foot which took a wicked deflection off a retreating County defender and Bialkowski was helpless as the ball rolled just inside the near post and into the visitors’ net.
Almost immediately from the kick-off, Campbell-Ryce stung the palms of Adam Collin with a cross-cum-shot before Vuckic showed fleet of foot to leave Gareth Roberts in his wake, before his dangerous centre was headed clear by a visitors’ defender.
Minutes later, Lee Frecklington was in the thick of the action as he twice tried his luck from distance, latterly following fine interplay involving Revell and Richard Smallwood on the edge of the box.
The Millers’ were sniffing blood and it was no surprise when they added a third with 26 minutes on the clock.
Following a long-ball forward, Boucaud looked to release the pressure for County but he dallied in possession and Revell shrugged him off the ball with a minimum of fuss before firing a superb skimming drive from distance which beat the outstretched hand of Bialkowski before nestling in the corner of the net.
The home side were running riot at this stage and they had the perfect opportunity to make it four minutes later when an innocuous ball forward was not dealt with by Roberts and Agard sensed the opportunity to nip in unnoticed and he got to the ball before the attentions of Bialkowski, who brought him down and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
From the resultant penalty, Agard dusted himself down and kept his composure to send the Polish ‘keeper the wrong way by stroking the ball into the roof of the net.
County were struggling to clear their heads and after a mazy run from Tavernier had Roberts in a daze, Vuckic curled a delightful effort which narrowly evaded the far post.
With half-time approaching, Skarz’s floated ball over the top saw Revell beat the offside trap and with County defenders struggling to track his run, the ex-Orient striker executed a delicate chip which narrowly cleared the visitors’ crossbar.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 4 Notts County 0
The home side started the second half as they finished the first when Revell took advantage of a clipped ball forward but he couldn’t control his strike under pressure from Bialkowski as it cleared the crossbar.
The Millers were looking the most likely to add to their tally and after Revell broke clear on the left flank, Vuckic showed clever footwork to give Frecklington a sight of goal but his drilled effort was blocked by Roberts before the ball fell into the grateful hands of Bialkowski.
At the other end, a swift counter attack by County saw Campbell-Ryce sweep an inviting cross which beat the attentions of Kari Arnason but sub Jack Grealish could not control his header as he failed to trouble Collin.
Minutes later, Rotherham thought they had added a fifth when Tavernier’s volley struck Pringle, who looked to get out of the way, and the ball ballooned into the air paving the way for Agard, to watch the ball over his shoulder before striking a crisp effort into the corner of the goal but any joy was short-lived as the assistant referee had flagged for offside.
However, the Millers’ faithful didn’t have to wait long before celebrating another well-worked goal on the hour mark.
Following a clever ball into the right channel, Vuckic ran at the heart of the County rearguard and after cutting inside menacingly, he struck a fierce effort which took a deflection of Freeman, as he looked to make a last-ditch block, and the ball fortunately looped into the corner of the goal.
The Millers’ had the luxury of resting both Frecklington and Pringle after Vuckic’s clip over the top saw Revell ease his way past Roberts before striking a low effort which stung the palms of Bialkowski.
The visitors’ frustration was summed up when Grealish became the first to see yellow following a show of dissent before the Millers added a sixth with seven minutes remaining.
County failed to clear the danger and sub Nicky Adams got the better of Freeman before delivering an inviting cross to the near post which saw sub Hitchcock nip infront of his marker before diverting the ball home from point-blank range.
With time running out, Mullins was cautioned for hauling down Agard before sub Michael O’Connor attempted to catch out Bialkowski at his near post from the resultant free-kick but the visiting ‘keeper parried the ball to safety.
In stoppage time, Collin preserved his clean sheet when he smartly kept out Campbell-Ryce’s snap shot at his near post before the ex-Millers winger flashed a tantalising centre in the last play of the game which bizarrely missed all visiting runners.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 6 Notts County 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Tavernier, Arnason, Morgan, Skarz, Agard, Smallwood, Frecklington (O’Connor 64), Pringle (Adams 71), Revell, Vuckic (Hitchcock 76). Unused:- Shearer, Brindley, Bradley, Addison.
Notts County:- Bialkowski, Sheehan, Smith, McGregor (Waite 67), Mullins, Appiah, Campbell-Ryce, Fotheringham (Grealish 46), Freeman, Boucaud (Dixon 30), Roberts. Unused:- Murray, Thompson, Spiess, Hollis.
Referee:- T Robinson