ROTHERHAM UNITED breathed new life into their Championship campaign with a superb 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers Wigan Athletic.
The Millers brought their recent winless run to an end in fine style as goals from Tom Lawrence and Alex Revell, just a minute after Ben Watson had equalised, ensured the Millers’ edged the Roses battle at the DW Stadium.
For the trip over the Pennines, Millers chief Steve Evans retained faith in his starting line-up for the third successive game following encouraging draws with Cardiff and Nottingham Forest in their last two outings.
On the home bench, there was a familiar face as James Tavernier was named amongst the Latics’ substitutes after starring in the Millers’ League One promotion push last term.
Following a quiet opening, Icelandic international Kari Arnason had Craig Morgan to thank after his mishit clearance almost put James McClean in the clear but the Millers skipper was on-hand to snuff out the danger.
Minutes later, Callum McManaman embarked on a mazy run from the left flank which saw him race away from Emmanuel Ledesma before showing fleet of foot to evade the attentions of Paul Green and Morgan in the box but from an acute angle, ‘keeper Adam Collin was able to block his drilled effort at the near post.
In the next phase of play, McClean blazed an effort over the bar before McManaman showed clever footwork to work a shooting position on the edge of the box to fire a snap effort which was bravely blocked by Morgan, with the home fans vainly appealing for a handball against the visiting skipper.
In their first foray of note, the Millers sprung a quick-counter attack and fine footwork from Richie Smallwood saw Revell and Lawrence exchange passes to pave the way for the ex-Orient striker to fire an instinctive effort which stung the palms of England ‘keeper Scott Carson and Ledesma pounced on the loose ball to weave his way towards goal before drilling a low effort which failed to trouble the home goal.
Moments later, Revell was almost the lucky beneficiary of James Perch’s weak backpass but Carson was on his toes to clear just in the nick of time before Watson screwed an effort wide despite having the goal at his mercy after the Millers failed to clear Shaun Maloney’s corner decisively.
Just shy of the half hour, Leon Barnett had to be on-hand to snuff out Ben Pringle’s tantalising centre before Ledesma’s powerful run ended with the Argentinian blazing an effort over the bar following good work by Smallwood.
At the other end, Don Cowie’s bobbling effort through a ruck of bodies failed to trouble the away goal before Reece James unleashed a piledriver from distance which was arrowing towards the Latics goal but the ball struck Perch en-route which took the sting out of the shot.
Moments later, Maloney cynically upended Lawrence after Rotherham launched a lightning counter-attack to halt the momentum of the move but the Scottish international escaped sanction before Green harshly became the first to see yellow for hauling down Chris McCann in the home side’s next attack.
Minutes later, the Millers had their best opportunity to date when Ledesma’s eye-of-a-needle pass was threaded into the advancing run of Lawrence, who advanced menacingly towards the Latics’ goal but as the Leicester loanee looked to shoot, Perch made a superb last-ditch tackle to keep the scores level.
The visitors were looking the most likely and following fine interplay, Revell was given an opportunity to fire goalwards but Carson stood up tall to block his fierce effort before Ledesma showed clever footwork to give Revell another chance at the near post but he was snuffed out by retreating defenders.
However, the visitors did not have to wait long to make the decisive breakthrough as Lawrence notched his first goal for the club.
The home side failed to deal with as long punt upfield as a wayward header had the Latics at sixes and sevens, and Andrew Taylor attempted to head the ball back to Carson but a mix-up which saw a retreating defender lose his footing gave Lawrence an unchallenged run to goal and he kept his nerve to calmly slot the ball past the advancing home ‘keeper.
The young striker’s joy soon turned to despair as he was harshly adjudged to have wrestled Barnett to the floor, which earned him a yellow card before the referee brought the curtain down on the first half.
Half-time:- Wigan Athletic 0 Rotherham United 1
Following the restart, McCann joined him in the book for hauling over Ledesma before Wigan had skipper Emmerson Boyce to thank for preventing Lawrence striking goalwards following Revell’s deft flick forward.
Moments later, Ledesma’s error paved the way for Taylor to float an inviting centre which saw McCann ghost away from his marker but he fluffed his lines with a scuffed effort which failed to trouble Collin.
The home side had faint appeals for a spot-kick when Maloney’s cross-cum-shot struck Green in the box before Rotherham turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye and James’ threaded ball saw Lawrence show clever footwork to jink into the box before Revell struck a snap shot which was straight down the throat of Carson.
Leeds loanee Scott Wootton became the next to see yellow for a high kick on Taylor by the touchline and the home side almost made them pay from the resultant free-kick when Watson swung an inviting centre which was met by the head of Marc-Antoine Fortune at the far stick but his bundled header was comfortably gathered by Collin.
The Millers failed to heed the warning as Malky Mackay’s side got themselves back on level terms just past the hour mark.
After McClean’s corner was bundled behind, the Ireland international had another opportunity to put a dangerous centre into the box and Watson ghosted from the pack with a near post run to power a header which hit the roof of the net giving Collin no chance.
However, Wigan’s joy proved short-lived after Rotherham regained the lead almost straight from the kick-off.
Following a free-kick award, Ledesma curled a tantalising centre which saw Revell emerge from a ruck of bodies to rise highest and his looping header saw Carson look back nervously as the ball dipped under the crossbar before nestling in the heart of the home goal.
The home fans’ frustration was evident when McClean saw yellow for a wild hack on Ledesma before Revell tried his luck with a speculative effort from distance but his tame effort was saved comfortably by Collin.
The Millers wasted two opportunities to seal the deal when firstly a lightning counter-attack involving Ledesma and Green saw sub Jordan Bowery drill a cross-cum-shot which Taylor fortunately hacked clear before Bowery turned provider moments later, when his perfectly-weighted pass saw Revell poke goalwards but agonisingly for the visitors’, the ball rolled narrowly wide of the upright.
The visitors were almost made to pay for their misses when sub Oriol Riera’s neat flick saw Fortune shrug off the attentions of his marker to work a shooting position but he blasted over from point-blank range despite having the goal at his mercy.
With time running out, the Millers were living on their nerves when McManaman got the better of James to float a delightful cross which saw Riera get infront of his marker to power a fierce header which smashed against the visitors’ crossbar.
Minutes later, the away fans had their hearts in their mouths when Morgan appeared to bundle over Fortune in the box but referee Keith Stroud waved away home appeals before Green put his body on the line to block Fortune’s drilled shot in the home side’s last foray of note as the Millers hung on for their second away of the season.
Full-time:- Wigan Athletic 1 Rotherham United 2
Wigan- Carson, A Taylor, McCann (Forshaw 80), Watson, Maloney (Fortune 53), McClean, McManaman, Boyce, Cowie (Riera 63), Perch, Barnett. Unused:- Al Habsi, Tavernier, Espinoza, Figueroa.
Rotherham- Collin, Arnason, Revell (Frecklington 84), Green, Pringle, Morgan, Wootton, James, Ledesma (P Taylor 80), Smallwood, Lawrence (Bowery 71). Unused:- Thompson, Newton, Derbyshire, Clarke-Harris.