ROTHERHAM UNITED were undone by a opening blitz from high-flying Ipswich Town, who recorded their fourth win on the spin.
Goals by Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick within the first six minutes gave the Millers a mountain to climb at Portman Road and despite more than matching Mick McCarthy’s men for the remainder of the clash, they were unable to force their way back into the proceedings.
Following their hard-fought draw against Charlton Athletic last time, Millers’ chief Steve Evans was forced to reshuffle his pack for the trip to Suffolk.
Ipswich loanees Paul Taylor and Anthony Wordsworth were ineligible to face their parent club paving the way for flying winger Ryan Hall and Ben Pringle to be recalled to the Millers’ starting line-up.
Club skipper Craig Morgan was suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season against the Addicks as Scottish international Kirk Broadfoot was entrusted with a berth at the heart of the visitors’ rearguard.
Midfield dynamo Lee Frecklington took the Millers’ armband as he returned to the fray following his impressive second-half display last week with Richie Smallwood ruled out because of injury.
On the bench, there was a return for young defender Daniel Rowe, who was recalled from his loan spell at Wycombe Wanderers to provide defensive cover for Evans’ men.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Pringle had a snap shot blocked by a retreating defender before Jonathan Parr’s floated ball saw Murphy fire a left-footed volley from an acute angle which forced Scott Loach into a smart save.
Moments later, Conor Sammon had a deflected effort whizz past the upright before the home side took the lead in the next phase of play.
Paul Anderson’s outswinging corner was met by the head of home skipper Luke Chambers, who forced Loach into a smart, reflex save on his line but the ball popped invitingly into the path of Murphy, who made no mistake with a point-blank header which found the roof of the net despite the attentions of a visiting defender on the line.
The home side were buoyed by the breakthrough and they stunned the visitors by doubling their advantage on six minutes.
There looked little danger when Luke Hyam ghosted in from the left flank to advance menacingly to the box but his slide-rule pass found the feet of McGoldrick, who weighed up his options before arrowing a fierce left-footed effort which beat the outstretched hand of Loach before finding the corner of the net.
The Tractor Boys were sniffing blood and McGoldrick had a delicate chip saved by Loach before Alex Revell blazed a speculative effort wide of the target in a rare foray by the visitors.
Moments later, Revell was in the thick of the action again but he fluffed his effort as he failed to make contact with the goal gaping before McGoldrick’s mazy run bisected the visitors’ rearguard but as he looked to pull the trigger, a last-ditch tackle prevented the ex-Forest hitman shooting goalwards.
Icelandic international Kari Arnason became the first to see yellow for flattening Anderson on halfway before Pringle floated an inviting cross which saw Revell plant a header goalwards but it was straight at home ‘keeper Dean Gerken.
Just past the half-hour mark, fine work by Frecklington paved the way for Hall to fire goalwards but Chambers put his body on the line to block his effort despite faint appeals by the visitors, that the ball had struck his arm before Pringle skimmed an effort harmlessly wide of the target.
Moments later, Frecklington became the next to incur the wrath of the referee as he was cautioned for a foul before Rotherham missed a gilt-edged chance to halve the deficit when Pringle’s fantastic delivery found Jordan Bowery in acres of space but his point-blank header was straight down the throat of Gerken, who parried the ball to safety.
At the other end, Anderson continued to torment the Millers when his clipped ball saw Christophe Berra rise highest to power a downward header which had Loach at full stretch before Chambers was the next to test the former Ipswich stopper with a diving header as he met Anderson’s tantalising corner in the next phase of play.
With half-time approaching, Ipswich came close to adding a third when firstly Tyrone Mings’ fantastic run and cross looked to be finding McGoldrick at the far post but a combination of Joe Skarz and Arnason squeezed him out before Anderson left Frecklington and Paul Green in a daze before screwing a shot wide of the target moments later.
The Millers drew a disappointing half to a close when Revell’s ambitious effort from distance failed to trouble Gerken before Parr headed over the bar following another inviting Anderson delivery at the other end.
Half-time:- Ipswich Town 2 Rotherham United 0
The home side came within a whisker of sealing the deal just moments in the second half when Frazer Richardson’s suicidal back header saw Sammon nip infront of Loach, but with the unguarded goal at his mercy, his sliding effort cannoned against the upright to the relief of the visitors.
At the other end, Rotherham countered with menace and fine interplay involving Hall and Pringle paved the way for Revell to head goalwards but Gerken was well-stationed to snuff out the danger before Bowery’s radar was off moments later as his header from Richardson’s delicate cross was away from the home goal.
The visitors were looking for a way back into the clash and they almost got one when Arnason’s bullet throw was not cleared decisively and Frecklington struck a low effort which was deflected narrowly wide of the target.
Moments later, Pringle was again the architect when his pinpoint cross gave Revell, a glimpse of goal but his powerful header found the grateful hands of Gerken before Arnason had to be on-hand to clear the danger from Murphy’s inviting centre at the other end.
McGoldrick’s powerful run had the Millers on the backfoot but he dragged his shot well wide of the target before Frecklington’s fierce effort from distance had home hearts fluttering as Mings’ last-ditch block saw the ball deflect narrowly past the upright.
In the resultant corner, Pringle’s inswinger saw the ball drop at the feet of Arnason, who stabbed towards goal but the ball dribbled harmlessly wide of the target before Rotherham had faint appeals for a spot-kick when sub Matt Derbyshire looked to be dragged down by Mings as he looked to shoot but referee Keith Hill waved away the visiting protests.
Moments later, Derbyshire fired a dipping effort which had Gerken looking over his shoulder nervously as it cleared the crossbar before Rotherham wasted their last opportunity to force their way back in the match when Green’s deflected free-kick was spilled by Gerken but the advancing Richardson fluffed his lines when he blasted the rebound into the stand when it looked easier to score.
Full-time:- Ipswich Town 2 Rotherham United 0
Ipswich- Gerken, Parr, Mings, Chambers, Berra, Murphy, McGoldrick (Bajner 75), Anderson (Tabb 54), Bru, Hyam, Sammon (Hewitt 67). Unused:- Bialkowski, Smith, Henshall, Bishop.
Rotherham- Loach, Skarz (Becchio 88), Arnason, Broadfoot, Hall (Derbyshire 59), Frecklington, Revell, Bowery (Clarke-Harris 74), Green, Richardson, Pringle. Unused:- Collin, Brindley, Swift, Rowe.