ROTHERHAM UNITED made the long trek north empty-handed as they slipped to a disappointing defeat at the hands of Reading.
Despite a bright opening from the Millers’ at the Madejski, Jamie Mackie put the Royals ahead at the interval before Simon Cox’s double salvo after the break sealed the deal for Nigel Adkins’ men.
Following their disappointing defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough at the weekend, Millers’ chief Steve Evans reshuffled his pack by making three changes to his starting line-up.
Joe Skarz returned to the left back slot following his suspension as Kirk Broadfoot had to be content with a place on the bench while Richie Smallwood was given a chance to impress in midfield as Paul Taylor made way.
Ex-Olympiakos hitman Matt Derbyshire was given another opportunity to break his league duck by partnering Alex Revell, who shrugged off a head injury sustained at the weekend to play, as Jonson Clarke-Harris was named among the substitutes.
Despite the Millers’ being the quickest out of the blocks as an early corner was won, the home side had the first sight of goal when Mackie swung a tantalising centre which was smartly gathered by ‘keeper Adam Collin.
Moments later, Cox had a mazy run which had the Millers’ backtracking until Skarz brought it to an abrupt end with a mistimed tackle but the resultant free-kick was snuffed out by the visitors’ rearguard.
In the next phase of play, Jordan Obita showed the visitors’ a quick pair of heels but his dangerous cross was missed by the advancing home runners.
Just shy of the quarter hour, a fine flowing move by the visitors paved the way for Paul Green to skip to the byline before floating a cross which saw Derbyshire nip infront of his marker to glance a header which was smothered by Adam Federici.
Moments later, the home ‘keeper made a hash of collecting Ben Pringle’s inswinging cross but no-one was able to capitalise before Green fired a snap effort which was straight down the throat of the Australian stopper.
The visitors’ had faint appeals for a spot-kick when a long punt upfield was flicked cleverly by Revell into the advancing run of Lee Frecklington, who appeared to be hauled over by Stephen Kelly but referee Andy Woolmer waved away visiting protests.
Just before the half hour mark, Glenn Murray found space down the right flank before firing a cross-cum-shot which forced Collin to take evasive action by tipping over the bar.
Despite very little being between the sides to date, Reading took a stranglehold on the game by breaking the deadlock.
The home side switched play cleverly enabling Kelly to rampage down the flank and although his cross hit the first man, Kari Arnason failed to clear decisively and his weak clearance fell invitingly for Mackie, who turned smartly before curling a delightful left-footed effort which arrowed into the top corner of the goal.
The Royals were visibly lifted by the strike and they came within a whisker of doubling their advantage when Kelly curled a delightful centre which appeared to skim off the head of the Icelandic international and Cox pounced on the loose ball to drill a low effort which had Collin at full stretch as he tipped the ball around the post.
The Millers’ gradually found their feet back into the encounter and quick thinking by Pringle almost caught the home defence napping before the ex-Derby midfielder fired a snap cross which saw Revell loop a header narrowly the bar over in the next phase of play.
With half-time approaching, Murray wasted a gilt-edged chance to shoot with the goal at his mercy before Skarz’s momentary slip saw Mackie advance with menace to the edge of the box and after jinking past the attentions of both the ex-Bury full-back and Arnason, he drilled a low effort which looked to be heading for the bottom corner until Collin’s superb last-gasp intervention kept the ball out.
Moments later, the Millers’ had a let off when Murray got on the wrong side of skipper Craig Morgan, who cynically hauled him down on the edge of the box to earn a caution in the process but the home side almost made the visitors pay from the resultant free-kick when Oliver Norwood struck a fantastic free-kick which struck the underside of the crossbar before the ball rolled to safety, fortunately for the Millers’.
Half-time:- Reading 1 Rotherham United 0
The home side started the second half strongly and Cox’s forceful run bisected the visitors’ rearguard and only a last-ditch tackle from Morgan prevented the ex-Forest hitman shooting goalwards.
At the other end, Derbyshire’s clever run into the channel ended with a delicate chip which forced Federici into a smart save.
From the resultant corner, Pringle swung a teasing centre which was met by the head of Arnason, who guided a powerful header which almost sneaked into the near post but the ball was palmed to safety by Federici.
Moments later, Pringle’s free-kick caused mayhem in the home box and Morgan was snuffed out before Smallwood had a snap shot blocked by a retreating defender.
However, ten minutes into the half, Reading gave the Millers’ a mountain to climb when they doubled their advantage.
A long punt forward was flicked forward into the path of Mackie, who pounced on the loose ball to cut inside from the right, and his perfectly-weighted pass superbly bisected the Rotherham rearguard and Cox was the beneficiary as he kept his nerve to strike the ball past the advancing Collin as it found the heart of the visitors’ goal.
The home side were sniffing blood and with the Rotherham defence all at sea, Murray gave Cox, another sight of goal but he blazed his effort wide of the target from an acute angle.
However, the Royals did not have to wait long to extend their advantage when they added a third soon after.
There looked little danger when Chris Gunter floated a hanging cross but the Rotherham defence failed to clear decisively and after the ball was planted back into the danger area, Cox showed fantastic awareness to strike an exquisite volley which beat the outstretched hand of Collin before nestling in the far corner of the net.
To their credit, Rotherham rallied bravely and Revell stung the palms of Federici with a stinging drive from distance before Arnason became the latest to see yellow for hacking down Mackie.
Sub Hope Akpan joined him in the book soon after for cynically slowing down a Rotherham counter attack before Mackie had sub Rob Milsom in a daze before striking a fierce effort which whistled past the upright.
With time running out, Murray fired over from distance as the home side coasted to a comfortable victory, which eases the pressure on home boss Adkins, after an indifferent run of late.
Full-time:- Reading 3 Rotherham United 0
Reading- Federici, Gunter, Kelly, Ferdinand (Hector 46), Pearce, Norwood, Cox (J Taylor 89), Obita, Mackie, Murray, Williams (Akpan 67). Unused:- Robson-Kanu, Blackman, Andersen, Cooper.
Rotherham- Collin, Skarz (Broadfoot 67), Arnason (Milsom 76), Frecklington (Bowery 67) , Revell, Green, Richardson, Pringle, Morgan, Derbyshire, Smallwood. Unused:- Loach, Swift, P Taylor, Clarke-Harris.