ROTHERHAM UNITED opened their Championship account in fine style as they put League One champions Wolverhampton Wanderers to the sword thanks to super-sub Ryan Hall’s fortunate strike.
Infront of a red-hot NYS atmosphere, the visitorswere guilty of missing a host of first-half chances with the Millers thankful to ‘keeper Adam Collin for keeping the scores level at the interval.
The home side rode their luck and they hit the visitors with the sucker punch when Carl Ikeme superbly denied Craig Morgan but Hall was on-hand to force the ball home from point-blank range.
Following their opening day defeat at the hands of Derby County last week, the Millers made two changes to their starting line-up for their first league home encounter.
Chelsea starlet John Swift was rewarded for his impressive cameo over Fleetwood in midweek by being granted a starting berth at the expense of Kieran Agard while Ipswich striker Paul Taylor was thrust immediately into the fray partnering Alex Revell upfront after only putting pen-to-paper on a loan deal on Thursday as midweek matchwinner Matt Derbyshire had to settle for a place on the substitutes bench.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and they had the first sight of goal when Kari Arnason’s bullet throw into the box evaded the attentions of skipper Morgan before appearing to strike the arm of Matt Doherty but referee Graham Salisbury waved away faint home appeals for a spot-kick.
In the next phase of play, the visitors failed to clear their lines decisively and Ben Pringle’s clever pass gave Taylor an opportunity to work a yard of space on his marker before blazing a shot over the bar.
Minutes later, the visitors were penalised when Richard Stearman climbed over Revell and from the resultant free-kick, Pringle swung a delightful centre which had the Wolves defence at sixes and sevens but Morgan was unable to force the ball goalwards enabling Ikeme to snuff out the danger.
At the other end, Bakary Sako’s dangerous corner forced Collin to punch clear from underneath his own crossbar before the Millers had the home ‘keeper to thank for keeping the scores level just before the quarter hour.
On the left flank, Rajiv Van La Parra got the better of Kirk Broadfoot and although his cross was blocked, the ball looped into the air and the ex-Rangers defender misjudged the bounce of the ball and the ball fell invitingly for Sako, who forced Collin into a smart, reflex save and although the ex-Carlisle ‘keeper looked stranded as Rotherham failed to clear, the French-born striker looked a certain scorer but Collin somehow managed to parry his point-blank effort to safety.
In an intriguing opening period, the Millers’ then came within a whisker of also making the breakthrough, with Collin this time, the provider.
The ‘keeper’s punt upfield was flicked on by Revell into the path of Taylor, who was one-on-one with Stearman, and he showed fleet of foot to work a shooting position before striking a rising effort which whistled past Ikeme but agonisingly for the home side hammered against the crossbar before rolling to safety.
Visitors skipper Danny Batth became the first to see yellow after clattering Paul Green on halfway and the home side almost made him pay from the resultant free-kick but Pringle’s delightful inswinger narrowly evaded the head of the on-rushing Revell.
Minutes later, Morgan joined him in the referee’s notebook after the Millers skipper hauled down former home loanee Nouha Dicko, as he looked to break clear.
Just past the half hour mark, Collin almost turned from hero to villain when he dallied on his clearance and Dicko sensed an opportunity to charge down his kick and although the home stopper prevented him striking goalwards, the ball fell into the path of Van La Parra with Collin all at sea, but his tame effort was cleared off the line by a retreating Arnason.
Minutes later, Broadfoot became the next to be cautioned following his late challenge on Scott Golbourne, who in turn incurred the wrath of the referee in the aftermath of the challenge as looked to re-enter the field after receiving treatment without the referee’s permission.
With half time approaching, the Millers’ had their hearts in the mouths when an innocuous ball saw Dicko get on the wrong side of Arnason and with Collin in no-man’s land, the diminutive striker clipped the ball over the advancing ‘keeper with his inside of his foot but to the home side’s relief the ball fizzed narrowly wide of the unguarded goal.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
Following the restart, the visitors started the half as they finished the first as Kevin McDonald’s pass was missed by Morgan and Dicko and the ball ran invitingly into the path of Dave Edwards, who advanced menacingly towards goal but with Green tracking back, the Welsh international dragged his shot harmlessly across the face of goal.
At the other end, Morgan climbed highest from Pringle’s corner but the Millers skipper could not control his header as it cleared the crossbar before sub Hall ambitiously tried his luck from distance but his effort failed to trouble Ikeme.
Just past the hour mark, Green was penalised for tripping McDonald in an inviting position on the edge of the box and Sako almost dished out punishment from the resultant free-kick but it was deflected narrowly wide of the target with Collin rooted to the spot.
Minutes later, Golbourne got the better of Hall on the left flank before delivering a tantalising cross which was not dealt with decisively by Collin, who failed to take charge, and the ball rolled invitingly into the path of Doherty, who blazed an effort narrowly over despite having the goal at his mercy.
The visitors’ were looking the most likely and after Morgan was harshly adjudged to have brought down Van La Parra on the edge of the box, Sako curled an effort harmlessly wide of the target from the resultant free-kick.
Minutes later, Pringle became the next to see yellow for hauling down Doherty in full flight before Rotherham amazingly grabbed the winner against the run of play with 14 minutes to go.
After sub Matt Derbyshire won a footrace with Golbourne to successfully win a corner, Pringle delivered an inviting centre which saw Morgan ghost through a ruck of bodies to power a header which brought a superb reflex save from Ikeme, but as Wolves looked to snuff out the danger, an attempted clearance saw Hall stick out a leg, and the ball ricocheted off the flying winger and into the heart of the visitors’ goal.
In a nerve-tangling finish, sub James Henry struck a free-kick narrowly wide before Dicko’s deft flick paved the way for the same player to strike goalwards but his effort was blocked by a ruck of home bodies.
Deep in stoppage time, Collin eased home nerves with a fantastic catch from Henry’s floated corner before the final whistle brought scenes of joy from the home faithful.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Skarz, Arnason, Broadfoot, Frecklington, Revell, Green, Pringle, Morgan, Swift (Hall 46, Agard 79), Taylor (Derbyshire 62). Unused:- Loach, Wood, Bowery, Tidser.
Wolves- Ikeme, Doherty, Golbourne, Edwards, Stearman, Batth, Sako (Henry 77), McDonald, Evans, Van La Parra (Jacobs 77), Dicko. Unused:- McCarey, Henry, Clarke, Ricketts, McAllinden, Ebanks-Landell.
Referee:- Graham Salisbury
Attendance:- 10,752 (1650).