NEIL Redfearn earned his first victory at the Millers helm on his old stomping ground of Elland Road as Joe Newell’s second-half header helped put Steve Evans’ Leeds United to the sword.
In a pulsating White Rose clash, Newell’s goal proved decisive as Rotherham held firm either side of the interval to record just their third win of the season and halt a run of four successive defeats.
The victory was slightly marred as debutant Leon Best saw red alongside Gaetano Berardi following a late altercation although Best will have impressed the Millers faithful following an excellent forward display up to that point.
Following the international break, Millers chief Redfearn made nine changes to his starting line-up for the visit to his former club.
New signings Best and Stephen Kelly made their debuts after putting pen to paper on deals until the end of the season while there were recalls for Lewis Buxton, Kirk Broadfoot, Joe Mattock in the Rotherham backline.
Skipper Lee Frecklington shrugged off a calf injury to take his place in the Millers engine room alongside Richie Smallwood while Joe Newell and Grant Ward took the midfield flank berths.
Best was joined upfront by Jonson Clarke-Harris while there was a familiar face in the home line-up as Scott Wootton lined up for the Whites following his loan spell at the AESSEAL New York Stadium last season.
The home side had the first sight of goal when Kelly was adjudged to have hauled over Mirco Antenucci and from the resultant free-kick, Alex Mowatt curled an inviting centre into the danger area but Clarke-Harris was well-stationed to head clear.
In the Millers’ first foray of note, Newell picked out the run of Best, who worked a yard of space on Berardi to advance into the box but his rising effort cleared the home crossbar.
Minutes later, Berardi tripped Ward as he looked to brake clear and the Millers almost made the home side pay from the resultant free-kick when Newell’s centre saw Marco Silvestri punch at fresh air but fortunately for the home side, no Miller was in attendance to turn the ball home.
The visiting faithful had their hearts in their mouths when Chris Wood got the better of Kelly following a long punt forward but Broadfoot superbly read the play to prevent the New Zealander finding the unmarked Antenucci with the goal at his mercy.
Just past the quarter hour, the Millers were relieved to see an offside flag to prevent the home side grabbing the initiative as Rotherham failed to clear decisively and Wood pounced on the hesitation to fire a snap shot which was half saved by Lee Camp and the ball fell invitingly into the path of Stuart Dallas, who stroked home into the unguarded net but Leeds joy soon turned to despair as the assistant referee had raised his flag.
Mattock harshly became the first to see yellow for a trip on Dallas before Best showed great tenacity to pick the pocket of Giuseppe Bellusci near the corner flag before advancing menacingly into the box but the Italian managed to strike out a leg to prevent the Republic of Ireland international striking goalwards.
Minutes later, Mowatt tried an ambitious effort from distance which screwed harmlessly wide of the target but the Leeds playmaker popped up to great effect in their next attack when a one-two split open the Rotherham rearguard to release Dallas, whose pass was inch-perfect for the advancing Mowatt, who looked to guide the ball into the bottom corner but Camp was on his toes to superbly divert the ball around the post.
Camp was in the thick of the action as he plucked cross-cum-shots from Antenucci and Bellusci from underneath his own crossbar before Rotherham came within a whisker of the opener when Smallwood curled a delicate free-kick against the post from just outside the box but referee Keith Stroud booked Antenucci for encroachment, prompting a retake although it was believed the goal would have stood if the ball had hit the back of the net.
Half-time:- Leeds United 0 Rotherham United 0
The home side were quick out of the blocks following the interval and after just a matter of seconds following the home kick-off, the ball was threaded to Antenucci, who fired a daisycutter from distance which had Camp nervously scurrying across goal as it whistled narrowly past the upright.
Nervous home defending almost presented Best and Newell with an opportunity to brake clear before Wood tormented Kelly with a direct run along the left flank before playing a tantalising centre which looked inviting for the run of Antenucci but the Italian striker bizarrely failed to make contact despite being just yards out.
Despite the home side building a head of steam, the visitors stunned the home faithful by breaking the deadlock nine minutes into the half.
After Leeds failed to clear the danger following a quick Rotherham counter, the ball fell kindly for sub Harry Toffolo, who spotted Smallwood in space, and the ex-Middlesbrough midfielder took his time to deliver an inch-perfect cross and Newell ghosted in almost unnoticed between the Leeds defence and his bundled header beat the outstretched hand of Silvestri as it sneaked into the far corner of the net.
The visitors were visibly lifted by the strike and Frecklington had a shot deflected wide of the target before Broadfoot became the latest to be cautioned seemingly for dissent.
The Millers had a scare when Wood’s slide-rule pass put Luke Murphy in the clear but Toffolo showed his defensive instincts to put a last-ditch block as the ball spooned over the advancing Camp but fortunately for the visitors, it curled narrowly wide of the target.
Just past the hour mark, Rotherham almost doubled their advantage when the home defence failed to deal with a punt forward and Ward’s neat pass into the box found Clarke-Harris with his back to goal but he cleverly worked a shooting position to power a drive which was straight down the throat of Silvestri.
Murphy became the first home player to be cautioned for a foul on Frecklington before the home side came within inches of an equaliser when Wood’s knockdown was perfect for the run of Antenucci, who fired a skimming drive which Camp could only watch fizz past the visitors upright.
Minutes later, the Millers almost had a firm grip on the game when Ward’s driven corner almost saw Frecklington sneak in at the far post following defensive hesistation but Leeds eventually managed to bundle the ball to safety.
There was a moment of controversy with 17 minutes remaining when Berardi and Best clashed following the Irishmen’s challenge which saw the Leeds defender react angirily and the referee following consultation with the assistant referee brandished the red card to both men.
With time running out for the hosts, Lewis Cook blazed an effort harmlessly over from 25 yards before Newell became the next to see yellow for a clumsy challenge on Mowatt.
Both Danny Ward and Bellusci were lucky to escape action following another clash before Wood had Leeds last effort of note when his powerful header from Antenucci’s cross went into the grateful hands of Camp.
The Millers almost put the icing on the cake in the dying seconds when Grant Ward broke clear but his fierce effort whizzed past the home upright but it didn’t matter as the Millers’ travelling contingent celebrated victory just seconds later.
Full-time:- Leeds United 0 Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Leeds- Silvestri, Wootton, Bellusci, Cooper, Antenucci, Murphy (Adeyami 67), Wood, Mowatt, Dallas (Botaka 67), Cook (Erwin 85), Berardi. Unused- Byram, Doukara, Erwin, Buckley, Horton
Rotherham- Camp, Buxton, Mattock (Toffolo 46), Broadfoot, Frecklington, Kelly, G Ward, Clarke-Harris (D Ward 80), Newell (Collins 90), Smallwood, Best. Unused- Collin, Andreu, Barker, Derbyshire
Referee:- K Stroud
Attendance:- 25802 (905).