DANNY Collins’ first goal for the club proved in vain as Nottingham Forest fought back with goals either side of the interval to leave the Millers empty-handed.
The visitors stunned the home faithful when Collins rose highest to put his side ahead but Matt Mills equalised in first half stoppage time before Michail Antonio scored the decisive winner midway through the second half.
Following their narrow cup victory over Cambridge in midweek, the Millers made two changes to their starting line up with left-back Joe Mattock making his competitive debut after shrugging off an ankle knock sustained during the pre-season tour of Scotland with Joe Newell entrusted with a role further forward on the left hand side of midfield.
Scottish international Chris Maguire also returned to the starting line-up after being rested in midweek as Aidy White had to settle for a substitutes berth while Jordan Bowery was rewarded for his winning goal against the U’s as he partnered ex-Forest striker Matt Derbyshire upfront.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and Bowery’s errant pass saw Jamie Ward advance with menace before drilling a low effort from outside the box which had Kelle Roos at full stretch to keep the ball out.
The Millers had the first sight of the home goal when Maguire was flattened as he looked to launch a quick counter and the ex-Owl almost made them pay from the resultant free kick when he dusted himself down to curl a delightful effort which sailed over the home wall and with Dorus De Vries a bystander, the ball fizzed past the home upright.
The home side had the Dutch ‘keeper to thank for keeping the scores level in the Millers’ next attack as Lewis Buxton floated an inviting centre which was inch-perfect for the run of Derbyshire, whose bullet header forced a superb reflex save from the home ‘keeper.
However the Millers did not have to wait long for the opener as they broke the deadlock from the resultant corner.
Newell floated a superb centre into the danger area and Collins ghosted in unnoticed through the ruck of bodies to loop a header into the roof of the home goal.
Minutes later, Richie Smallwood became the first to see yellow following a late tackle on Jamie Ward before Greg Halford’s bullet throw was only half-cleared by the home rearguard into the path of Newell, who screwed his half-volley harmlessly wide of the target.
The visitors had their hearts in their mouths when Antonio got the better of Buxton to fire a cross in the corridor of uncertainty and the ball fell invitingly for Chris Burke, who nodded the ball past the dive of Roos as it nestled in the bottom corner of the net but with Tyler Walker claiming a final touch en-route to goal, any home joy was curtailed as the assistant referee had flagged for offside.
Minutes later, Derbyshire became the latest to incur the wrath of the referee as he was cautioned for kicking the ball away before Bowery’s stinging half volley from distance stung the palms of De Vries.
Just past the half hour mark, Mattock produced a superb last-ditch tackle to bring Jamie Ward’s mazy run to an end before Halford was well-stationed to head clear Henri Lansbury’s tantalising free-kick in the home side’s next attack.
Minutes later, Antonio fired a swerving effort which seemed to deceive Roos in the air as he punched the ball clear before Derbyshire and Bowery led a visitors cavalry charge paving the way for Lee Frecklington to fire a daisycutter which was smothered by De Vries at the other end.
With half-time approaching, Maguire became the third Miller cautioned for a late tackle of Jamie Ward before the home side levelled matters on the stroke of half time.
There looked little danger until Jamie Ward foraged his way past a number of tacklers to deliver a centre which saw Mills tower above Collins to power a far post header which gave Roos no chance as it nestled in the Millers’ net.
Half-time:- Nottingham Forest 0 Rotherham United 1
Following the interval, the Millers came within a whisker of regaining the lead when Maguire’s slide-rule ball saw Buxton float a centre which De Vries failed to deal with decisively and Bowery pounced on the loose ball to fire a goalbound effort which was blocked by a retreating defender near the line, with the visiting faithful shouting vainly for handball.
At the other end, Jamie Ward’s tenacity gave Walker a glimpse of goal and his snap shot smashed into the side netting before good work from Frecklington saw Derbyshire cut inside to fire a dipping effort which was deflected narrowly over the home bar.
Just before the hour mark, a Rotherham attack broke down and Lansbury’s sweeping ball put Burke in the clear, who bared down on Roos but the Derby loanee stood up tall to block his effort.
However, Forest took a firm grip on the game when Burke worked a crossing position to deliver a centre near the byline which caught Roos out as he looked to collect near his own crossbar and the ball bounced invitingly for Antonio, who kept his nerve to fire the ball into the unguarded net from point blank range.
The Millers responded positively to the setback and after Maguire was fouled, Newell swung a delightful free kick which saw Halford rise highest but his header narrowly cleared the home crossbar.
With the game in the balance, Burke fired a skimming drive which had Roos at full stretch as he smothered the ball at his near post before the Dutch ‘keeper was called into action moments later when Michael Mancienne’s measured drive was arrowing towards goal before his superb late intervention kept the ball out.
David Vaughan became the first home player to see yellow for a trip on sub White before skipper Halford was thrown upfront as the Millers looked to salvage a share of the spoils.
The home side almost sealed the deal when Walker got to the byline to fire a cross which saw Roos punch into the path of Burke, who almost bundled the ball home but it whistled past the post.
With the game entering the final minutes, the Millers almost got back on level terms when Halford’s superb cross narrowly evaded Derbyshire and Danny Ward before fizzing past an unmarked Buxton at the far post as the Millers were denied their first points of the season.
Full-time:- Nottingham Forest 2 Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Forest- De Vries, Lichaj, Mancienne, Mills, Wilson, Lansbury, Antonio, J Ward (Blackstock 63), Vaughan, C Burke, Walker (O Burke 84). Unused- Fox, Paterson, Hobbs, Evtimov, Pinillos.
Rotherham- Roos, Buxton, Mattock, Collins, Maguire (White 71), Frecklington, Halford, Bowery (D Ward 71), Newell, Derbyshire, Smallwood (Thorpe 82). Unused- Green, G Ward, Collin, Ledesma.
Referee- D Bond