NEIL Redfearn claimed his first victory at the AESSEAL New York Stadium in charge of the Millers as a Jonson Clarke-Harris brace and a Lee Frecklington effort put Bristol City to the sword.
Despite the visitors starting the game on fire, Clarke-Harris curled home the opener before he notched his fifth goal of the season from the spot after Kirk Broadfoot was hauled down in the box.
Clarke-Harris came close to notching his hat-trick near half-time before skipper Frecklington led from the front to seal the points with a well-taken third as the Millers notched back-to-back wins for the second time this season as the victory puts them just one point behind their opponents.
After securing his first win at the Millers helm on his old stomping ground at Elland Road, Redfearn made two changes to his starting line-up for the visit of Steve Cotterill’s Bristol City.
Experienced defender Danny Collins returned to the Millers defence in the left-back slot as Joe Mattock was ruled out because of a hamstring strain sustained in the Leeds clash.
The second change was also enforced on the Millers boss as Leon Best was unavailable because of the red card he received in the White Rose derby so Danny Ward was given an opportunity to impress upfront alongside Clarke-Harris.
New loan signing Luke Hyam was named on the bench just days after putting pen to paper on a loan deal from Ipswich while there was a familiar name in the visitors’ line-up as Kieran Agard was named for the Robins in his first return to the AESSEAL New York Stadium after helping the Millers achieve back-to-back promotions during his time in South Yorkshire.
The visitors had the first sight of goal when Derrick Williams and Jonathan Kodija combined to great effect to split open the home rearguard and the City frontman floated a cross which saw Aden Flint attempt an acrobatic effort which lost fizz as it crashed into the turf into the grateful hands of Lee Camp.
Moments later, Williams was again the provider as he skipped to the byline before playing an inviting centre which saw Kodija flash an effort which was deflected narrowly over the bar and from the resultant corner, City caught the home side napping with a short corner and Elliott Bennett worked a yard of space on his marker before drilling a low effort which had Camp nervously scurrying across goal as it hit the side netting.
However, the Millers stunned the visitors, who had started brightly, as they broke the deadlock on ten minutes with their first foray of note.
The visitors looked to be mounting another attack until Grant Ward was tigerish in the tackle to put the Millers on the frontfoot and there looked little danger until the ball was threaded into the right channel where Clarke-Harris teased and tormented his marker, who backtracked towards his own box and the ex-Oldham striker made him pay as he curled a delightful left-footed effort from distance which beat the outstretched hand of Frankie Fielding as it nestled in the far corner of the net.
The Millers joy almost proved shortlived as Bennett flashed a fierce effort into the side netting before Kodija’s slide-rule pass saw Agard beat the offside trap to race clear but despite only having Camp to beat, the Millers ‘keeper stood up tall to block his goalbound effort.
The visitors were seemingly cutting the Millers open at will and Camp was well-stationed to snuff out Bennett’s dangerous centre before Williams almost sneaked behind Lewis Buxton at the far post but he couldn’t control his volley under pressure from the home defender.
Despite City’s pressure, Rotherham almost doubled their advantage when Clarke-Harris showed his class with a cross-cum-shot with the instep of his left-boot which had Fielding anxiously backtracking towards his own goal and despite the visitors’ keeper seemingly parrying the ball to safety, referee Tim Robinson awarded a goal kick as the ball flashed narrowly wide of the target.
Marlon Pack became the first to see yellow for cynically hauling down Grant Ward before the Millers had the ideal opportunity to double their lead when Buxton’s long ball into the box saw Kodija clamber over Broadfoot, who crashed into a heap in the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing for a spot-kick and book the City frontman in the process.
From the resultant penalty, Clarke-Harris kept his nerve as he blasted the ball into the roof of the visitors net giving Fielding no chance.
Just before the half-hour mark, Agard almost came back to haunt his former club when Luke Freeman won a tussle near the touchline before playing a dangerous centre which saw Agard nip infront of his marker to glance a header which shaved the home upright with Camp a helpless bystander.
With half-time approaching, Freeman became the latest to see yellow for a late lunge on Clarke-Harris near the touchline and it almost got worse for the visitors when Joe Newell’s resulting centre was not cleared by the visitors defence and with Broadfoot looking to turn the ball home from close range, City managed to bundle the ball clear just in the nick of time.
The Millers suffered a blow just prior to half-time when Stephen Kelly was forced to be withdrawn because of injury before the Millers almost ended an enthralling half with a third in stoppage time.
Clarke-Harris got the better of Korey Smith to release Frecklington, who floated a delicate centre to the far stick which saw Clarke-Harris volley goalwards and a combination of a retreating defender, Fielding and maybe the upright, kept the ball out and stopped the hitman claiming the matchball.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 Bristol City 0
Following a slow start to the half by both sides, City had the first effort of note when Luke Ayling’s flashed cross seemed to catch his fellow centre half, Flint by surprise as his header failed to trouble the home goal.
The home side had faint appeals for another spot kick when Grant Ward was seemingly upended following a mazy run into the box but the referee waved away home protests.
The Tottenham loanee was in the thick of the action and after Danny Ward led a Rotherham counter, Ward got the better of sub Liam Moore before screwing his effort wide of the target before Broadfoot became the latest to incur the wrath of the referee when he saw yellow for tripping Agard.
On the hour mark, Danny Ward picked the pocket of Ayling to lead a Rotherham cavalry charge and Clarke-Harris’ sweeping ball saw Grant Ward advance with menace to drill an effort which was blocked by a last-ditch tackle.
Minutes later, Ayling talked himself into the book before Pack’s clipped free-kick caught the Rotherham defence at sixes and sevens as Flint sneaked around the back but he was unable to volley the ball goalwards.
However, the Millers effectively sealed the deal with quarter an hour to go when Ward brushed aside the attentions of Pack to lead a Rotherham attack and after Ayling failed to deal with his centre, Danny Ward showed great awareness to pull the ball into the path of the unmarked Frecklington, who successfully turned the ball home with a left-footed effort from close range.
Clarke-Harris almost put the gloss on a polished home performance when he broke clear but he blasted the ball into the home faithful before City had Fielding to thank to prevent Danny Ward from making it three in stoppage time when he palmed away his snap shot from an acute angle.
Full-time- Rotherham United 3 Bristol City 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Camp, Buxton, Collins, Broadfoot, Frecklington (Barker 86), D Ward, Kelly (Rawson 45), G Ward, Clarke-Harris, Newell (Hyam 82), Smallwood. Unused:- Collin, Derbyshire, Toffolo, Yates
Bristol City- Fielding, Williams, Flint, Ayling, Smith, Agard (Wilbraham 58), Bennett, Freeman, Baker (Moore 46), Pack, Kodija (Cox 68). Unused:- O’Leary, Little, Reid, Bryan.
Referee- T Robinson
Attendance- 8949 (866).