ROTHERHAM United slipped to their first defeat in four games as they fell victim to Jordan Rhodes’ late strike for Blackburn Rovers.
Craig Conway brought a lacklustre first-half to life when he put Rovers ahead but the Millers raised their game after the interval and Matt Derbyshire looked to have earned his side a share of the spoils against his former club until Rhodes popped up in the dying minutes.
Following their back-to-back home victories over Bolton and Ipswich respectively, the Millers kept faith with their starting line-up for the fourth successive game.
Following a slow opening by both sides, the home side had the first sight of goal when Kari Arnason tripped Rhodes and the home hitman almost made the visitors pay from the resultant free-kick when he rose highest to meet Tom Cairney’s inswinger but his header failed to trouble Adam Collin.
The ex-Huddersfield marksman was in the thick of the action as he was the quickest to react after the Rotherham rearguard failed to deal decisively with a long punt forward but his instinctive half-volley from distance was smartly parried to safety by Collin.
The Millers were struggling to find their rhythm and after Frazer Richardson’s error, the home side countered with purpose but Jay Spearing saw his snap shot from the edge of the box blocked by a retreating defender.
Just before the half-hour, sub Alex Baptiste got the better of Ben Pringle but his drilled cross was deflected by Arnason into the grateful hands of Collin before Rotherham had a strong appeal for a spot-kick with their first foray of note when incisive play by Conor Sammon and Derbyshire paved the way for Conor Newton to waltz into the box before curling an effort which seemingly struck the hand of Baptiste, but referee Geoff Eltringham waved away vociferous visiting appeals for a penalty.
At the other end, Cairney showed fleet of foot to evade the attentions of Morgan on the edge of the box but his goalbound shot was bravely blocked by Arnason before Pringle’s inviting corner was met by the head of Derbyshire, who headed goalwards but his effort lacked power as ‘keeper Jason Steele collected with a minimum of fuss.
With neither side on top, the home side took the game by the scruff of the net with half-time approaching when Markus Olsson released Conway on the left flank, who shrugged off the attentions of Newton to cut inside from the byline and unleash a fantastic dipping effort which sailed over the outstretched hand of Collin to nestle in the far corner of the net.
The home side were visibly lifted by the strike and the Millers had Collin to thank for keeping them in the game when Conway turned from scorer to provider by floating a tantalising centre which saw Chris Brown head goalwards despite having his back to goal but the ex-Carlisle stopper showed quick feet to usher the ball to safety.
Half-time:- Blackburn Rovers 1 Rotherham United 0
The home side started the second half as they finished the first when Conway’s clipped cross was headed down by Rhodes but Brown was unable to connect with the loose ball despite the goal gaping.
The Millers turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye and a threaded ball saw Sammon cleverly lay the ball off into the path of Derbyshire, who instinctively struck goalwards but Matt Kilgallon threw his body in the way of his shot to snuff out the danger.
Moments later, Spearing became the first to see yellow for cynically clipping the heels of Paul Green as he broke forward and the resultant free-kick, sub Adam Hammill curled an effort around the home wall but Steele was well-stationed to keep his effort out.
The visiting fans had their hearts in their mouths when Cairney tumbled under the challenge of Richie Smallwood in the box, but referee Eltringham booked him for simulation before Derbyshire stung the palms of Steele with an effort from distance at the other end.
Just before the hour mark, Collin made a rash charge from goal as he looked to meet Cairney’s free-kick but home skipper Grant Hanley was unable to punish his error as he headed wide of the target before Hammill fired a tame free-kick down the throat of Steele after Sammon had been hauled down on the edge of the box.
With the game in the balance, sub Ben Marshall fizzed an effort narrowly over the bar following a lightning home counter before sub Danny Ward almost made an instant impact as he met Jack Hunt’s cross but his header was straight at Steele.
However, the home side failed to heed the warning as Rotherham deservedly equalised with 19 minutes remaining.
Following a period of pressure, Rovers were penned deep in their own half and the ball was worked to Green, who weighed up his options to fire a pinpoint cross to the near post and Derbyshire showed his predatory instincts to nip infront of Steele to toe-poke home from point-blank range.
However, Rotherham’s joy proved to be short-lived as after sub Rudy Gestede powered a header against the upright, Rovers netted the decisive winner.
There looked little danger as the ball pinged around the box but subs Gestede and Marshall combined to plant the ball into the box and Rhodes nipped in between two defenders to stab the ball home from point-blank range giving Collin no chance.
With time running out, the Millers’missed a golden chance to equalise for a second time when Green made a perfectly timed run to meet Hammill’s inviting cross but bizarrely he failed to hit the target with the goal gaping as the Millers made the trip back over the Pennines empty-handed.
Full-time:- Blackburn Rovers 2 Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Blackburn- Steele, Kilgallon, Hanley, Lowe (Baptiste 20), Brown (Gestede 75) , Cairney (Marshall 65), Rhodes, Olsson, Spearing, Evans, Conway. Unused:- Eastwood, Spurr, King, Taylor.
Rotherham- Collin, Arnason, Green, Richardson, Newton (Hammill 50), Pringle (Hunt 50), Morgan, Sammon (Ward 67), Derbyshire, Fryers, Smallwood. Unused:- Broadfoot, Frecklington, Bowery, Thompson.
Referee:- Geoff Eltringham