ROTHERHAM United breathed new life into their Championship survival battle as they put high-flying Hull City to the sword in arguably their best display of the campaign.
The Millers banished the memories of three successive defeats in fine style as skipper Lee Frecklington blasted them into an interval lead from the spot.
Despite Tigers’ pressure either side of the break, Joe Newell’s third goal of the season eased home nerves as the Millers dragged themselves to the edge of the dropzone following the victory.
Following their disappointing defeat at the hands of Huddersfield Town in midweek, Millers chief Neil Redfearn made three changes to his starting line-up for the visit of Steve Bruce’s Hull City.
Republic of Ireland international Stephen Kelly and Derby loanee Farrend Rawson were recalled to the Rotherham rearguard after shaking off calf and hernia injuries respectively as Lewis Buxton and Danny Collins had to settle for substitute berths.
Top scorer Jonson Clarke-Harris was also named on the bench as Danny Ward was asked to ply a lone furrow upfront while Ipswich loanee Luke Hyam made his second start for the Millers in a five-man midfield.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when fine work from Richie Smallwood saw Newell hauled over by Moses Odubajo in a promising position and Smallwood tried his luck from distance from the resultant free-kick but his curling effort was deflected over by the visitors wall.
Moments later, Danny Ward got the better of Harry Maguire by the touchline before planting a centre which found Grant Ward, who looked poised to shoot on the edge of the box, before being crowded out by the onrushing Tigers defence.
Kirk Broadfoot became the first to see yellow for a late sliding tackle on Uruguayan international Abel Hernandez on halfway before Maguire had Hull’s first effort of note with a speculative effort from distance which was blocked en-route to goal by Smallwood.
Moments later, Danny Ward showed fleet of foot to leave Andrew Robertson in his wake before cleverly dovetailing the attentions of the assistant referee to latch onto the loose ball and he advanced into the box with menace before his cross-cum-shot was blocked by the retreating Jake Livermore.
However, Rotherham were not to be denied from the resultant corner as Newell swung a tantalising centre into the danger area and the visitors could not clear the danger before Broadfoot was unceremoniously bundled over by Odubajo and referee Eddie Ilderton had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Skipper Frecklington led from the front as he blasted the resultant spot kick into the roof of the net giving Allan McGregor no chance in the visitors goal.
The Tigers responded well to the setback and Livermore’s instinctive header from the edge of the box skimmed off the turf forcing Camp to smartly parry the ball to safety before a swift counter attack from the visitors involving Ahmed Elmohamady and Livermore saw Chuba Akpom cut inside to curl an effort which flashed narrowly over the home bar.
The visitors had stepped on the accelerator and Shaun Maloney fired a deflected free-kick wide of the target before Smallwood was well-stationed at his near post to prevent the Scottish international’s corner sneaking into the home goal moments later.
Curtis Davies became the latest to see yellow for a cynical pull-back on Grant Ward, who looked to break clear before Frecklington fired a daisycutter from distance in the next home attack which took a deflection of the Tigers centre-half but McGregor managed to read the deflection as he kept the ball out.
With half-time approaching, the home fans had their hearts in their mouths when Hernandez’s fizzed centre looked inch-perfect for the run of Akpom, just yards out, but the ball bounced at an awkward height and the Arsenal loanee looked to bundle the ball home, maybe with the use of an arm, but a combination of Camp and the upright seemingly prevented the ball crossing the home line.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 1 Hull City 0
The visitors were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and Akpom sliced an effort into the large travelling contingent behind the goal before Frecklington’s misplaced pass looking for Grant Ward saw the lively Robertson burst away to play a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Akpom, who let the ball come across his body, before drilling a low effort which beat Camp but smashed against the home upright.
The Millers temporarily relieved the pressure when Newell made something out of nothing as his mazy run from the left flank bisected both Odubajo and Maguire, but from a tight angle, he could only fire into the side netting with only McGregor to beat.
Broadfoot was walking a tightrope after he hauled over Akpom near the corner flag before squaring up to his opposite number but the referee took no further action.
The visitors were stepping on the gas and Robertson and Meyler combined smartly to release Akpom, but his cross-cum-shot was smothered by Camp with Hernandez lerking menacingly for a tap in.
However, just shy of the hour mark, the Millers doubled their advantage thanks to a moment of brilliance from Newell.
The ex-Peterborough midfielder was initially denied with a forceful run but Frecklington won possession to give Newell another bite of the cherry and he made it count when he took the ball on his right foot and after working a yard of space on Davies just inside the box, he crashed an effort which flew past McGregor as it smashed against the underside of the crossbar to nestle in the visitors net.
Minutes later, Hernandez ghosted infront of his marker to meet Elmohamady’s centre but his bullet header failed to trouble Camp before Joe Mattock’s low drive from distance was smartly smothered by McGregor at the other end.
Danny Ward was the next to incur the wrath of the referee as he was cautioned for a foul on McGregor but he almost went from villain to hero when he flashed a long-range effort which whistled past the visitors upright.
There was a bizarre moment when Livermore’s threaded pass looked to have put Akpom through on goal but the striker, believing he was offside let the ball run, and Camp pounced on the loose ball, but there was no flag to the frustration of the Hull faithful.
The Arsenal striker was having a day to forget as minutes later, he broke clear after Rawson slipped and despite beating the on-rushing Camp, his low effort cannoned against the post before being diverted to safety.
The visitors probably knew it was not going to be their day when firstly Maguire ghosted in unnoticed at the far stick to meet Elmohamady’s corner but he headed wide with the goal at his mercy before sub Tom Huddlestone blasted over from the edge of the box.
The home side almost put the gloss on a polished performance in the dying seconds when sub Clarke-Harris’ slide-rule ball paved the way for Grant Ward to strike a fierce effort which was superbly parried to safety by McGregor.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 Hull City 0
Rotherham United 2
Hull City 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Camp, Kelly (Buxton 46), Rawson, Broadfoot, Mattock, Smallwood, Hyam, G Ward, Frecklington (Andreu 84), Newell, D Ward (Clarke-Harris 81). Unused- Collin, Collins, Green, Derbyshire
Hull- McGregor, Odubajo (Diame 56), Davies, Meyler (Huddlestone 67), Hernandez (Diomande 67), Maguire, Livermore, Maloney, Akpom, Robertson, Elmohamady. Unused- Jakupovic, Taylor, Clucas, Hayden.
Referee:- E Ilderton
Attendance- 10355 (2571)