Matt Derbyshire’s second-half strike was not enough as Rotherham United slipped to their fourth consecutive defeat at the hands of Birmingham City despite a spirited showing after the break.
The hosts raced into a two-goal interval lead thanks to goals from Robert Tesche and Clayton Donaldson before Derbyshire’s strike just after the restart gave the Millers hope of a fightback, but the Blues held on to record victory.
Following the international break, the Millers retained an unchanged starting line-up since their last outing against Sheffield Wednesday for the trip to St Andrew’s with Danny Rowe being added to the squad with Colchester-bound Richard Brindley making way.
There was a familiar face in the home ranks with former Millers loan star Wes Thomas fielded among the Blues replacements.
Following a slow start by both sides, the Blues had the first sight of goal when Jonathan Grounds threaded a ball into the feet of David Cotterill, who struck a first-time shot but skipper Craig Morgan bravely threw his body in the way of his goalbound effort.
Minutes later, Morgan was again in the thick of the action as he was well-stationed to hack away Grounds’ dangerous centre before Andrew Shinnie floated a cross-cum-shot which flew harmlessly over the Millers’ bar in the next home attack.
Just past the quarter hour, Emi Martinez was quick off his line to snuff out the danger following Demarai Gray’s incisive run and cross before Cotterill dangerously cut inside from the left flank before unleashing a rasping drive which stung the palms of the Argentine, who parried the ball to safety.
Kirk Broadfoot became the first to see yellow after he cynically hauled back Clayton Donaldson on halfway and Shinnie soon joined him in the book for a late challenge on Lawrie Wilson.
In the Millers first foray of note, Ben Pringle swung a tantalising centre which looked inviting for the run of Matt Derbyshire but under pressure from two defenders, the ex-Olympiakos striker failed to make a clean connection with his header.
Just before the half-hour mark, Birmingham took the game by the scruff of the net when Daniel Lafferty’s header saw Donaldson pull the ball back into the path of the advancing Robert Tesche, who calmly stroked the ball from the edge of the box past the outstretched hand of Martinez to find the bottom corner of the goal.
The hosts were lifted by the breakthrough and Stephen Gleeson blazed an effort well over before Gray followed suit moments later following a quick Blues’ counter attack.
Minutes later, Paul Caddis ghosted from the flank to fire a fierce effort which struck Donaldson en-route to goal before Cotterill floated an inviting centre which saw Shinnie rise highest but he could not control his header as it flew harmlessly over the bar.
With half-time approaching, Lee Frecklington clumsily bundled over his opponent to give away a free-kick in an inviting position and the home side made them pay when Cotterill fired a stinging effort which Martinez could only parry into the path of Donaldson, who had the simple task of heading into the unguarded net.
Gary Rowett’s men almost added a third moments later when Donaldson turned smartly to curl a delightful effort which had Martinez flying across goal but fortunately for the Millers, the ball fizzed narrowly over the bar.
Half-time:- Birmingham City 2 Rotherham United 0
The Millers were quick out of the blocks following the restart and they soon halved the deficit when quick passing found Conor Sammon in the right channel, who looked to pick out the marauding run of Frecklington, who seemed to lose control of the ball as he bared down on goal, but Darren Randolph in attempting to clear could only parry the ball into the path of Derbyshire, who tapped home from close range.
The visitors were buoyed by the strike and Pringle waltzed into the box to play a slide-rule pass which fell inviting for the onrushing Frecklington, who decided to cut inside Grounds instead of striking first time, but he was crowded out before he could get his strike away.
Moments later, Pringle cleverly worked a shooting position to fire a rasping effort from distance which narrowly cleared the crossbar before Cotterill exchanged passes with Shinnie at the other end before ballooning his shot over the bar.
The Millers had strong appeals for a spot kick when Pringle tame cross was not dealt with by a retreating defender and Derbyshire pounced onto the loose ball before appearing to be bundled over by Rob Kiernan in the box but referee Dean Whitestone waved away visiting protests.
Moments later, the home side turned defence into attack with the blink of an eye and Martinez was forced to take evasive action following Donaldson’s snap shot before Grounds became the next to incur the wrath of the referee for cynically tripping Jack Hunt as he looked to race into the home box.
The Palace loanee was proving a danger down the right flank and another powerful run into the box bisected the home defence before a block tackle from a retreating defender saw the ball ricochet threateningly towards the home goal.
Moments later, Morgan became the latest to see yellow for a clumsy foul on Donaldson before Rotherham piled on the pressure which saw Pringle whip a dangerous centre which Randolph parried clear before sub Conor Newton fired another tantalising cross from the right which found Derbyshire, who headed across goal but unfortunately no Miller was on hand to force the ball home.
Moments later, Jordan Bowery tried his luck from distance but Randolph was well-positioned to smother his shot before the home side came within a whisker of sealing the deal when sub Lloyd Dyer skipped to the byline before firing a centre which narrowly evaded a sliding Donaldson with the goal at his mercy.
With time running out, Evans threw Jerry Yates into the fray for his Millers’ bow and Hunt almost broke clear but Dyer halted his progress before Newton fired over after Pringle’s corner was only half-cleared as the Blues held on in the latter stages to claim the three points, after two last ditch saves from Martinez prevented a Blues third from Tesche.
Full-time:- Birmingham City 2 Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Birmingham- Randolph, Grounds, Glesson, Donaldson, Cotterill, Tesche, Kiernan, Shinnie (Davis 81), Morrison, Caddis, Gray (Dyer 67). Unused:- Doyle, Robinson, Thomas, Novak, Fabbrini.
Rotherham- Martinez, Lafferty, Broadfoot, Frecklington, Pringle, Morgan, Sammon (Newton 63), Wilson (Bowery 52), Derbyshire, Hunt, Smallwood (Yates 85). Unused:- Collin, Green, Milsom, Rowe.
Referee:- Dean Whitestone
Attendance:- 16569 (1112)