ROTHERHAM UNITED showed their fighting spirit as they battled back from a four-goal deficit to give Ipswich Town a scare but it proved to be vain as Mick McCarthy’s men recorded a convincing victory at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Brett Pitman’s early opener put the Tractor Boys infront before Jonathan Douglas doubled their lead midway through the first half.
The game was seemingly over as Irish international Daryl Murphy netted goals either side of the interval but Brandon Barker crowned his professional debut in fine style with a superb curling effort before sub Matt Derbyshire gave genuine hope of a home fightback when he halved the visitors lead with a well-taken strike.
With the home faithful sensing the impossible could be on the cards, Murphy gave the Suffolk side some much-needed breathing space with their fifth as he claimed the matchball in the process.
Following their narrow defeat at the hands of high-flying Middlesbrough in midweek, the Millers made two changes to their starting line-up for the visit of the Tractor Boys.
Last season’s top scorer Matt Derbyshire made a welcome return to the Millers starting line-up as he shrugged off an ankle knock to take his forward role alongside Danny Ward as Jonson Clarke-Harris had to settle for a substitutes berth.
Manchester City loanee Barker was thrusted immediately into the fray on the left-hand side of midfield for his first ever senior appearance just 24 hours after putting pen to paper on a temporary deal as French playmaker Tony Andreu was named amongst the substitutes.
The home fans were almost stunned when Ipswich had a glorious chance to open the scoring within a minute when the home defence failed to deal with Dean Gerken’s punt upfield and the ball screwed off the head of a retreating defender into the path of Freddie Sears, who bared down on goal, but his goalbound shot was saved smartly by the trailing leg of Lee Camp, who diverted the ball to safety.
The visitors were quick out of the blocks and Sears turned architect when his dangerous cross had to be chested behind by Harry Toffolo before Rotherham failed to clear the resultant corner and Ipswich’s centre-half partnership combined when Christophe Berra’s hooked the ball back into the danger area into the path of New Zealand international Tommy Smith, who blasted the ball over from a promising position.
The Tractor Boys were rewarded for their early pressure when they broke the deadlock on eight minutes when Paul Green’s backpass put Danny Collins under pressure and his clearance was worked to Kevin Bru, who swung a tantalising centre into the danger area and Pitman rose highest to glance a header into the bottom corner of the net giving Camp no chance.
The visitors were sensing an opportunity and visitors’ skipper Luke Chambers miscued his effort from point-blank range following good work initially from Bru on the right flank before Pitman executed an acrobatic effort from just outside the box following Murphy’s flick-on but despite Camp racing anxiously back towards his own goal, the ball cleared the home crossbar.
The Millers’ had their first effort of note when Toffolo worked a yard of space on Chambers to drill a low centre which looked inviting for the run of Derbyshire, who temporarily looked to have nipped infront of his marker, Berra but the Scottish international recovered in the nick of time to divert his deft flick behind.
However, the home move proved a false dawn as Ipswich doubled their advantage in their next attack.
There looked little danger until Camp was forced into a rash clearance under pressure and Green was stripped of possession by Douglas, who advanced with menace, before striking a fierce right-footed effort from distance which beat the outstretched hand of Camp before nestling in the bottom corner of the net.
The Millers had their ‘keeper for keeping them in the game just shy of the half hour mark when Murphy got the better of a 50-50 challenge with Frazer Richardson on the edge of the box before striking an effort which took a wicked deflection of a retreating Farrend Rawson but Camp despite initially being wrongfooted got a strong hand to it to keep the ball out of the bottom corner of the goal.
Home frustration was summed up when Toffolo became the first to see yellow as Pitman robbed him of possession before being hauled down by the Norwich loanee as the referee had no hesitation in brandishing the yellow card.
With half-time approaching, Camp had to be on his toes to divert Pitman’s lob over the bar after the ex-Bournemouth striker had got on the wrong side of Rawson but the home stopper was powerless to prevent the Tractor Boys making it three when from the resultant corner, Rotherham failed to clear the danger as Tom Thorpe unsuccessfully looked to poke the ball clear and the ball found Murphy, who fired a snap shot which found the bottom corner of the net.
The half almost got worse for the Millers in stoppage time as Pitman’s threaded ball saw Murphy win a footrace with Collins before striking an effort which smashed against the crossbar and the ball fell invitingly into the path of Sears, who showed fleet of foot to have a glimpse of goal but he fluffed his lines when he blasted into the home faithful behind the goal despite having the goal at his mercy.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Ipswich Town 3
Millers’ boss Neil Redfearn looked to spark life into the home side as he made a double substitution at the break but the day went from bad to worse for the Millers just minutes into the second half when Smith’s headed clearance fell invitingly into the path of Murphy, who had worked a yard of space from his marker before drilling a low effort from just inside the box into the bottom corner of the net.
The Millers rallied bravely despite the deficit and they finally gave the home faithful something to cheer when sub Clarke-Harris switched play with an arrowed pass across the goalmouth and Barker showed his class when he jinked smartly to work a shooting position and he made it count when he struck a delightful effort from outside the box past the home chargers and the ball curled tantalisingly inside the post to find the visitors net.
The home side were given genuine hope of a comeback when they halved the deficit just three minutes later when Rotherham hooked the ball forward from the middle of the park and Derbyshire, who looked decidedly in an offside position, sneaked infront of Chambers, before smashing an effort which gave Gerken no chance as it hit the roof of the visitors net.
The Millers looked a transformed outfit and Clarke-Harris curled an effort narrowly over the bar before the dangerous Barker had a shot blocked by a retreating defender.
However, the Millers hope proved shortlived as Ipswich effectively sealed the deal with 18 minutes remaining when Chambers’ long throw caught the home side napping and the ball sat up kindly for Murphy on the edge of the box, who made no mistake as he struck a fine left-footed effort which arrowed into the home goal for his hat-trick goal.
The Millers refused to throw in the towel and Clarke-Harris came within a whisker of bundling the ball home at the far post before Collins executed a deft flick following Barker’s corner but the ball whistled narrowly over the bar.
With time running out for the hosts, Camp smartly smothered Pitman’s drilled effort before he was called into action minutes later when he collected Berra’s downward header following sub Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ corner.
Clarke-Harris was proving a bright spark since his half-time introduction and Berra bravely blocked his long range piledriver before Murphy blocked his downward header en-route to goal from the resultant corner as the Millers vainly looked to add a little bit of gloss to the scoreline in the dying minutes.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 Ipswich Town 5
Teams:- Rotherham- Camp, Collins, D Ward, Green (Smallwood 46), Richardson, G Ward, Rawson, Thorpe (Clarke-Harris 46), Barker, Derbyshire, Toffolo (Buxton 85). Unused- Collin, Broadfoot, Newell, Andreu
Ipswich- Gerken, Knudsen, Chambers, Smith, Berra, Skuse, Murphy (Parr 90), Pitman, Bru (Maitland-Niles 66), Sears (Coke 81), Douglas. Unused- Bialkowski, Oar, Malarczyk, Toure.
Referee:- D. Drysdale
Attendance:- 9,162 (1,019).