ROTHERHAM United’s Championship survival hopes were dealt a blow as they slipped to defeat at Nottingham Forest, despite a spirited second-half showing.
Despite an even first half, Forest took the game by the scruff of the neck with the interval approaching thanks to strikes from Dexter Blackstock and Michail Antonio.
The Millers came out fighting after the break and skipper Lee Frecklington was denied on a number of occasions before Karl Darlow’s instinctive save prevented Conor Sammon from halving the deficit near the end.
Following their narrow defeat at the hands of Wigan Athletic at the weekend, the Millers made just one change to their starting line-up with box-to-box midfielder Frecklington returning to the visitors engine room following his one match suspension at the expense of Paul Green, who had to settle for a place on the bench.
The hosts had the first sight of goal when Darlow’s long punt upfield was flicked on into the path of ex-Owl Antonio, who weighed up his options before curling a long-range effort which whizzed past the visitors upright.
In the Millers first foray of note, Kari Arnason pinged a long diagonal pass which was inch perfect into the stride of Jack Hunt, who attempted a speculative volley, but it failed to trouble the home goal.
Moments later, Arnason tried his luck from distance but it blazed over the home bar before Hunt almost sneaked around the back of the Forest defence but Antonio snuffed out the danger in the visitors next attack.
Just before the half-hour mark, Eric Lichaj cut inside from the left flank with menace before unleashing a rasping drive which flew over the visitors goal before the home side had faint appeals for a spot kick when Antonio’s mazy run was ended when Hunt appeared to bundle him over in the box but referee Michael Bull waved away home protests.
Moments later, Richie Smallwood became the first to see yellow for a late tackle on home skipper Henri Lansbury before Ben Pringle had a shooting opportunity on the edge of the box at the other end but Jamaal Lascelles threw his body in the way of the shot.
From the breakdown of the Millers attack, Antonio launched a quick home counter before being upended by Kirk Broadfoot on the edge of the box but Lansbury failed to make the Millers pay from the resultant free-kick when he blazed his effort well over.
Moments later, Gary Gardner became the latest to incur the wrath of the referee when he hauled down Smallwood near the corner flag to earn a caution before Arnason soon joined him in the book for a cynical trip on Chris Burke, who looked to race clear.
With half-time approaching, Forest grabbed the initiative when Antonio’s clipped ball forward saw Blackstock get on the wrong side of Broadfoot and after spotting Adam Collin off his line, the home frontman lofted the ball over the visitors’ ‘keeper, who got a hand to the ball before couldn’t prevent it finding the net.
The home side were visibly lifted by the strike and they gave the Millers a mountain to climb two minutes later when Antonio picked up the loose ball before driving hard at the visitors rearguard and with Frecklington unable to get in a tackle, he drove a low effort from 25 yards which beat the outstretched hand of Collin to find the bottom corner of the net.
Half-time:- Nottingham Forest 2 Rotherham United 0
Following the restart, Antonio got the better of sub Frazer Richardson before firing a mis-hit cross which forced Collin into taking evasive action by tipping the ball over the bar before Rotherham wasted an opportunity to halve the deficit when Pringle jinked into a crossing position to float a centre which found Frecklington unmarked at the far post, but the visitors’ skipper was caught in two minds as his cross-cum-shot bobbled harmlessly wide of the target.
The midfielder was in the thick of the action minutes later when Arnason’s bullet throw was only half-cleared by the Forest defence into the path of Frecklington, who controlled his strike from the edge of the box as it beat the attentions of Darlow but agonisingly smashed against the upright before bouncing to safety.
The visitors were doing their utmost to grab a foothold in the game as Matt Derbyshire spun smartly to fire an instinctive strike which flew harmlessly wide of the target before Arnason got the better of his marker near the byline to give Frecklington another shooting opportunity but his goalbound effort was blocked by a retreating defender.
Against the tide of the half, Forest launched a lightning counter-attack led by Antonio but after bisecting the home rearguard, Farrend Rawson made a superb last-ditch block to keep his shot away from goal before Gardner and Blackstock combined smartly as the latter dragged his shot wide of the target.
In the next phase of play, Kelvin Wilson rose highest from Ben Osborn’s tantalising corner but he planted his unmarked header over the bar before a sweeping home move paved the way for the lively Antonio to work a yard of space on Rawson before firing into the side netting.
Moments later, Osborn stung the palms of Collin with a stinging drive from distance before Pringle fired over the bar following Frecklington’s clever threaded ball into his path.
With time running out for the visitors, Rawson’s guided knockdown gave Conor Sammon a glimpse of goal and his snap shot was deflected but Darlow showed sharp reflexes to palm the ball away despite being initially wrong footed before Pringle’s corner found Frecklington at the far post but his stabbed effort was blocked by a ruck of bodies in the six-yard box.
In the dying minutes, Forest almost added a third when Osborn released sub Modou Barrow, who flashed a dangerous centre across the face of goal but Burke was unable to turn the ball home at the far post before Gardner curled a superb effort which had Collin scurrying across goal as it shaved the visitors’ upright.
Full-time:- Nottingham Forest 2 Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Forest- Darlow, Lichaj, Mancienne, Wilson, Lansbury, Lascelles, Antonio, Gardner, Blackstock (Barrow 78), Burke (Walker 90), Osborn. Unused:- Collins, Fox, Vaughan, Paterson, Evtimov.
Rotherham- Collin, Lafferty, Arnason, Broadfoot, Frecklington, Pringle, Sammon, Derbyshire (Bowery 75), Hunt (Richardson 48), Rawson, Smallwood (Milsom 56). Unused:- Green, Morgan, Hammill, Thompson.
Referee:- Michael Bull