SUPER-SUB Danny Ward breathed new life into the Millers’ Championship relegation fight as his late goal against Brentford saw Neil Warnock earn his first win as Rotherham boss.
In an enthralling encounter, Matt Derbyshire put the Millers infront with a poachers’ finish before Alan Judge levelled matters before half-time as he tapped home a rebound after Lee Camp had saved his spot-kick.
However, Rotherham were not to be denied and Ward came off the bench to strike the decisive winner with a drilled effort to send the AESSEAL New York faithful into raptures.
Following back-to-back away defeats at the hands of Burnley and Reading respectively, Warnock reshuffled his pack by making four changes to his starting line-up for the visit of the Bees.
The Millers were given a timely boost as box-to-box midfielder Lee Frecklington made a welcome return from injury to take his place in home engine room while ex-Arsenal and Crystal Palace winger Jerome Thomas was handed his Millers debut following an impressive cameo against the Royals.
Utility player Greg Halford was asked to play on the right-hand side of midfield as the Millers paraded a new look strikeforce in the shape of Derbyshire and Leon Best, who was making his home debut for the club.
There were a couple of familiar faces in the Londoners line-up as former Millers loanees John Swift and Jack O’Connell were named for Dean Smith’s side.
Following a slow start by both teams, the Millers had the first sight of goal when Thomas’ free-kick had to be headed behind by Harlee Dean.
Moments later, Thomas arrowed another corner which had to be headed clear from underneath the visitors crossbar before Halford’s exocet throw into the box caused havoc but the Bees’ defence managed to scramble the ball clear.
Just before the quarter hour, Nico Yennaris’ weak clearance was pounced upon by Frecklington, who unleashed a dipping volley from distance, but the ball struck Dean en-route to goal giving David Button a comfortable catch.
In the visitors’ first foray of note, the Millers had a scare when a clipped ball from the right flank saw Kirk Broadfoot challenge with Marco Djuricin on the edge of the box and the Scottish centre-half appeared to divert the ball with his hand and the referee initially appeared to point to the spot, before giving a free-kick award.
Irishman Judge almost made the home side pay from the resultant free-kick when he curled a delightful effort which sailed over the wall and was heading for the roof of the net but Lee Camp pulled off a top-draw acrobatic save to keep the scores level.
At the other end, Matt Derbyshire had a snap shot deflected wide of the target before fine work by Broadfoot and Derbyshire saw Thomas race in acres of space down the left flank but his tame pull-back was cleared by Jake Bidwell.
Just before the half-hour mark, Joe Mattock delivered a tantalising free-kick which was only half-cleared by Yennaris and Halford looked to steady himself before executing a volley from just outside the six yard box but his effort screwed wide of the target.
However, the Millers were finally rewarded for their pressure with the opener in their next foray of note when a long-ball forward was cleverly flicked by Best into the path of Frecklington, who rampaged into the box, and although his first-cross was blocked, the ex-Peterborough midfielder picked out his man at the second attempt and although Derbyshire did not seem to get a clean connection, the ball dribbled into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Derbyshire earned a yellow-card for his excessive celebration following the goal before the Millers almost made it two soon after when Halford’s headed flick-on from a long punt forward was inch-perfect for the run of Best, who fired an instinctive effort which was saved by the legs of Button.
The Millers hopes were dealt a blow just before half-time when a ball into the box saw Richardson make a hash of his clearance and the ball fell for Sergi Canos, who looked to shoot before Frecklington bared down on the Liverpool loanee, and the home midfielder appeared to get a touch on the ball before Canos tumbled over his challenge and the referee pointed to the spot, to the anguish of the home faithful.
From the resultant spot-kick, Camp dived correctly to his right to keep out Judge’s low effort but agonisingly for the Millers, the ball squirmed back into the path of the highly-rated midfielder, who tapped home into the unguarded goal.
With half-time approaching, Best appeared to be hauled over in the box following a tussle with a home defender but the referee waved away home protests.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 1 Brentford 1
Following the interval, the home fans had their hearts in their mouths when Judge sneaked around the back to deliver a tantalising centre which saw the home defence backtracking nervously as O’Connell poked the ball towards goal but Camp stood up tall to block his point-blank effort, although any goal would have been ruled out for offside.
Following some handbags in the visitors box, Thomas delivered an inviting corner to the near post which saw Halford get a run on his marker to glance a header which narrowly cleared the crossbar.
The Millers were piling on the pressure and Halford had a snap shot bravely blocked by Bidwell before Frecklington plucked the ball out of the sky before firing goalwards but a Bees’ defender put his body on the line to block his goalbound effort.
Moments later, Rotherham executed a training ground set-piece which paved the way for Mattock to curl a free-kick around the visitors wall and although Button was nervously scurrying across goal, the ball whizzed past the upright.
In the next home attack, Mattock floated a delicate corner which was only half-cleared by the visitors defence and Thomas cut inside with menace to drill a low effort from just outside the box which Button smartly smothered with his body.
Just past the hour mark, Judge blazed an effort over the bar before Halford’s bullet throw was aimed for Richard Wood but a headed clearance saw sub Danny Ward bring the ball down before smashing an effort which smashed against the crossbar.
However, the ex-Huddersfield striker was not to be denied as in the next phase of play, Mattock swung an inviting corner which was not dealt with decisively by the Brentford rearguard and Frecklington looked to control the high ball before Ward pounced on the loose ball to drill a low effort through the ruck of bodies and into the heart of the visitors goal.
However, Rotherham’s joy almost proved short lived and they had Richardson to thank for preserving their slender lead.
Following a swift counter-attack, a ball from the flank found Swift at the far post, who twice tried to force the ball goalwards but the ball fell kindly for sub Philipp Hoffmann, who looked a certain scorer from just yards out, but Richardson bravely threw his body infront of his shot to keep the ball out.
The Millers almost sealed the deal when Wood’s flick-on saw Danny Ward nip infront of his marker to fire a snap shot from an acute angle but Button showed good reflexes to palm the ball to safety.
With time running out for the visitors, Bidwell saw yellow before sub Lasse Vibe firstly headed over from Konstantin Kerschbaumer’s clipped cross before he latched onto a throughball in the dying seconds and after holding off Richardson, he flashed a low effort which stung the palms of Camp, who diverted the ball to safety, to the relief of the home faithful.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 Brentford 1
Rotherham United 2
Teams- Rotherham- Camp, Mattock, Broadfoot, Wood, Thomas (G Ward 76), Frecklington (Green 81), Halford, Richardson, Derbyshire, Smallwood, Best (D Ward 64). Unused- Kenny, Kelly, Clarke-Harris, Newell.
Brentford- Button, Bidwell, Dean, Djuricin (Hofmann 64), McEachran (Kerschbaumer 78), Woods, Judge, Swift, O’Connell, Yennaris, Canos (Vibe 83). Unused- Bonham, Saunders, Barbet, Clarke.
Referee- M Brown
Attendance- 8534 (556)