ROTHERHAM United returned over the Pennines empty-handed as a Sam Vokes’ penalty and Scott Arfield’s strike saw promotion-chasing Burnley earn the three points.
Despite a resolute Millers display, Neil Warnock suffered his first defeat at the Rotherham helm as goals either side of the interval saw Sean Dyche’s men claim the Roses victory.
Following their hard-fought draw with Birmingham City last time out, the Millers made three changes to their starting line-up for the visit to the high-flying Clarets.
Experienced defender Lloyd Doyley was thrown immediately into the fray at the heart of the Millers rearguard just 24 hours after putting pen-to-paper on a deal until the end of the season as Richard Wood missed out because of his red card against the Blues.
Greg Halford was asked to deputise in the right-back slot following his impressive cameo last week as Frazer Richardson was switched to the left-hand side with Joe Mattock suspended.
In just his second game in charge, Warnock gave Jonson Clarke-Harris a chance to impress upfront alongside Danny Ward as Matt Derbyshire had to settle for a substitutes berth.
On the bench, veteran ‘keeper Paddy Kenny was reunited with former boss Warnock after signing a short-term deal yesterday alongside Jerome Thomas, who had joined the Millers earlier in the week after impressing on trial.
The home side had the first sight of goal when Kirk Broadfoot was penalised for climbing over Vokes and from the resultant free-kick, David Jones swung a tantalising centre which was smartly gathered by Lee Camp.
Jones was in the thick of the early action as Rotherham failed to clear Matthew Lowton’s cross and the home midfielder tried his luck from distance but his effort failed to trouble the Rotherham stopper.
In the Millers first foray of note, Halford launched a bullet throw into the home box which was only half-cleared into the path of Richie Smallwood, who looked to volley goalwards but the ball screwed harmlessly wide of the target.
Just past the quarter hour, Broadfoot clashed with Michael Keane in the visitors box but the referee waved away home protests for a spot kick before Camp was on his toes to prevent Stephen Ward stabbing the ball home from point-blank range as the visitors failed to deal with Jones’ corner decisively.
Moments later, Ben Mee clattered into the Rotherham ‘keeper in an aerial duel but the referee took no further action as Chris Burke was cautioned for dissent in the aftermath of the incident.
The game took a cruel twist for the Millers when Ward’s threaded ball saw George Boyd look to spin Doyley on the edge of the box and the ex-Watford defender clipped the heels of the winger just on the whitewash and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
From the resultant penalty, Vokes kept his nerve to wrongfoot Camp and slide the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
The hosts were lifted by the strike and Stephen Ward’s inviting centre bizarrely missed the home runners but Lowton pounced on the loose ball to deliver a delicious cross which was inch-perfect for Andre Gray, who powered a point-blank header against the frame of the goal.
With half time approaching, Camp’s punt upfield was cleverly knocked down by Clarke-Harris into the path of sub Grant Ward, who had just replaced his namesake Danny, and the Tottenham loanee unleashed a dipping half volley which whistled narrowly over the home bar.
In the last play of the half, Stephen Ward attempted an audacious effort with the outside of his left-foot from distance but the ball narrowly cleared the visitors’ crossbar.
Half-time:- Burnley 1 Rotherham United 0
Following the interval, former Manchester City star Joey Barton started to pull the strings and it was his superb centre which saw Vokes get on the wrong side of the Millers defence but the Welsh international was unable to steer the ball goalwards with his outstretched leg.
Moments later, Arfield drilled a low effort which was blocked en-route to goal by Doyley before Gray fluffed his lines by blazing the rebound over the bar before sub James Tarkowski’s ball into the channel released Gray, whose tantalising cross was inches away from Vokes at the far post.
In a rare foray from the Millers, sub Andrew Shinnie’s pass paved the way for Newell to try his luck from distance but the ball screwed wide of the target before Gray was booked for dissent after a free-kick award was given against him.
Mee was the next to join him in the book for cynically hauling down Clarke-Harris as he looked to race clear and the Millers almost made them pay from the resultant attack when Broadfoot rose highest to meet Halford’s exocet throw but fortunately for the home side, Tom Heaton was well-stationed to gather on his own line.
With quarter an hour to go, Arfield’s slide-rule ball put Gray in the clear and he rounded Camp to slip the ball into the empty net but his joy soon turned to despair, as the offside flag had been raised.
Gray had two chances to seal the deal when he latched onto Lowton’s long ball to turn Broadfoot but his tame effort from the edge of the box was straight down the throat of Camp before he had a footrace with the Rotherham stopper but Camp managed to get a timely knick to the ball to clear the danger.
The Millers missed a gilt-edged chance to level matters when Clarke-Harris’ sweeping pass saw Newell edge infront of Lowton on the edge of the box to bare down on goal but with his weaker right-foot, he screwed his effort wide of the target.
With the game swinging end to end, Boyd got on the end of a flowing move from the home side to sting the palms of Camp before Vokes was crowded out with the goal at his mercy before Arfield had a shot bravely blocked by Richardson.
With time running out for the Millers, Burnley sealed the points when Gray’s timely pass took two Rotherham defenders out of the game and Arfield kept his nerve to slide the ball past the advancing Camp to find the roof of the net.
Full-time:- Burnley 2 Rotherham United 0
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Burnley- Heaton, Lowton, Mee, Keane (Tarkowski 33), S Ward, Boyd (Taylor 90), Barton, Jones, Arfield, Vokes, Gray (Hennings 90). Unused- Robinson, Kightly, Ulvestad, Darikwa
Rotherham- Camp, Halford, Broadfoot, Doyley (Best 72), Richardson, Burke (Shinnie 46), Smallwood, Green, Newell, D Ward (G Ward 38), Clarke-Harris. Unused- Kenny, Collins, Derbyshire, Thomas.
Referee:- T Robinson
Attendance:- 15849 (644)