ROTHERHAM UNITED’s Championship survival hopes suffered a blow as they slipped to a disappointing reversal at the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The home side raced into a two-goal interval lead thanks to Benik Afobe and Nouha Dicko, who came back to haunt the Millers once again after his hat-trick at Molineux last season.
In the second-half, Afobe grabbed his second to effectively seal the game before Dave Edwards and Bakary Sako compounded the Millers’ misery with further goals near the end.
Following their titanic tussle with Derby in midweek, the Millers made two changes to the starting line-up with Frazer Richardson returning to the right-back slot at the expense of Crystal Palace loanee Jack Hunt, who suffered a knee injury during the clash with the Rams.
Huddersfield loanee Adam Hammill was given an opportunity to play against his former club as Ben Pringle had to settle for a substitutes berth while Derby’s Conor Sammon made a welcome return to the squad after he was ineligible to play against his parent club.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and Sako got the better of Kirk Broadfoot to advance menacingly towards the home box but his flighted cross narrowly evaded the attentions of James Henry.
Moments later, Henry was in the thick of the action again when he unleashed a rasping drive from distance which whistled past the upright before the Millers had their first foray of note when Richardson’s ball into the channel saw Matt Derbyshire work a yard of space on Richard Stearman to fire a deep centre which saw Hammill ghost in unchallenged at the far stick but he could only stab the ball into the grateful hands of Tomasz Kuszczak.
At the other end, Sako was pulling the strings for the home side paving the way for Dominic Iorfa to fire a tantalising centre which had Adam Collin at full stretch to snuff out the danger before the home side made the opening breakthrough on 21 minutes.
There looked little danger until Kevin McDonald got on the ball and his defence splitting pass was inviting for the run of Afobe, who left the Rotherham rearguard in his wake as he let the ball run across his body to calmly stroke the ball past Collin into the heart of the away goal.
The visitors had faint appeals for a spot kick when Derbyshire fell under the challenge of a retreating defender but referee Iain Williamson waved away their protests.
Minutes later, Wolves executed a superb training ground corner which saw Henry strike goalwards but his shot was blocked by the ruck of bodies and the rebound fell back into the path of the home midfielder who struck a snap effort which forced Collin into taking evasive action.
The home side were sniffing blood and after the Rotherham defence failed to deal with a long punt forward, Dicko struck an instinctive effort from distance which had Collin nervously scrambling across goal.
However, the Millers failed to heed the warning as Wolves doubled their lead just before the hour mark.
Following another lightning counter by the home side, Afobe turned provider to slip an incisive pass into the path of Dicko, who kept his nerve to calmly work a shooting position on the edge of the box and he made no mistake to stroke the ball home giving Collin no chance.
The goal seemed the spark the Millers into life and Richie Smallwood flashed an effort wide before Broadfoot rose highest to meet Hammill’s inviting centre but the Scottish international could not keep his header down as it blazed over the crossbar.
The visitors came within a whisker of halving the deficit when Hammill’s centre saw Derbyshire nip infront of Stearman to glance a header which smashed against the post and the ex-Olympiakos striker was quick to pounce on the loose ball but his effort from an acute angle took a wicked deflection of a retreating defender as it grazed the goal.
Steve Evans’ men were starting to find their feet and Derbyshire left Edwards in his wake to slide the ball into the path of Danny Ward, whose run was halted by Danny Batth, but Hammill was on-hand to strike goalwards from the edge of the box but his tame effort was comfortably gathered by Kuszczak.
Moments later, Rob Milsom fired a rasping effort from distance which took a deflection which took the sting out of the shot before Kari Arnason became the first to see yellow for a late challenge on Stearman.
With half-time approaching, the Millers missed a gilt-edged chance to put themselves back in the game when a long diagonal ball was headed by Paul Green into the path of Derbyshire, who was in acres of space but with the goal gaping, the in-form striker fluffed his lines as he failed to make clean contact as the home side cleared the danger.
Half-time:- Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Rotherham United 0
Following the interval, the Millers were almost caught short after Wolves broke quickly on the breakdown of Hammill’s corner but Dicko failed to take advantage of a two-on-one opportunity as his pass was intercepted by Zeki Fryers.
Minutes later, Hammill became the next to incur the wrath of the referee with his trip on Stearman earning him a caution before Henry worked his magic to evade a number of would-be tacklers to fire a bobbling effort which had Collin nervously scurrying across goal as it whistled narrowly wide of the upright.
Just past the hour mark, the home side were indebted to Kuszczak for preserving their advantage as Fryers swung a tantalising centre which saw Derbyshire, despite having his back to goal, generate power in his header as it arrowed towards the top corner but the Polish stopper showed his agility to palm the ball to safety.
The save proved crucial moments later when Wolves effectively put the game to bed with a third goal as Henry threaded an incisive pass which saw Afobe time his run to perfection to race clear and as he beared down on Collin, he kept his cool to round the ex-Carlisle stopper and calmly stroke the ball into the unguarded goal.
The Millers’ responded bravely to the setback and after Green almost took advantage of Kuszczak being caught in no-man’s land but he failed to get his shot away before the ex-Manchester United stopper had to be at his best to keep out Hammill’s superb effort from distance which was arrowing towards the top corner.
Moments later, Ward’s slide rule pass gave Hammill an opportunity to strike and although his shot was deflected, the ball looped invitingly into the path of Sammon, who looked a certain scorer but his tame header was straight down the throat of Kuszczak.
It was almost a carbon copy moments later when Hammill jinked his way into a crossing position to swing a fantastic ball from the byline which was met by the head of Sammon again with the goal at his mercy but Kuszczak was well-stationed to gather his point-blank header.
The Millers were punished for their wastefulness infront of goal when the home side added a fourth after Bako had a goalbound shot deflected behind.
From the resultant corner, Bako turned provider as his drilled centre to the front stick saw Edwards time his run to perfection and the Welsh international deftly flicked the ball goalwards and despite the last ditch intervention of Collin, the ball hit the roof of the net.
The Millers afternoon went from bad to worse as Wolves added a fifth when sub Rajiv Van La Parra pounced on the loose ball to embark on a mazy run on the edge of the box before playing a superb inside pass which caught the Millers defence square and Bako fired a low drive with his weaker right foot which squirmed under the body of Collin to find the visitors net.
Full-time:- Wolverhampton Wanderers 5 Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Wolves- Kuszczak, Golbourne (Hause 81), Edwards, Stearman, Batth, Henry, Sako, McDonald, Afobe (Van La Parra 67), Iorfa, Dicko (Doyle 67). Unused:- McCarey, Doherty, Ebanks-Landell, Jacobs.
Rotherham- Collin, Arnason, Broadfoot, Green, Milsom (Sammon 46), Richardson, Ward, Hammill (Newton 81), Derbyshire (Clarke-Harris 77), Fryers, Smallwood. Unused:- Loach, Bowery, Pringle, Morgan.
Referee:- Iain Williamson