ROTHERHAM UNITED produced one of the results of the season as Lee Frecklington’s late strike earned an eye-catching victory over high-flying Middlesbrough.
The Millers withstood a first half barrage from the visitors to go in level-pegging at the interval before the home side gradually grew in confidence and they were duly rewarded when Frecklington pounced in the dying minutes of the game to earn their third straight victory.
Following their fantastic derby win over Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend, Millers chief Neil Warnock made two changes to his starting line-up for the visit of title chasing Middlesbrough.
Flying winger Jerome Thomas was recalled for his second start in Millers colours while Leon Best was given a chance to impress upfront alongside Hillsborough match winner Matt Derbyshire.
There was a wealth of talent on the ‘Boro bench as Jordan Rhodes and Stewart Downing were named amongst the substitutes alongside former one-time Millers loanee Grant Leadbitter.
The visitors had the first sight of goal when David Nugent’s run into the channel paved the way for Cristhian Stuani to fire a dangerous cross-cum-shot which Lee Camp was forced to palm to safety.
At the other end, Ben Gibson was forced to head Jerome Thomas’ whipped free-kick behind and from the resultant corner, Joe Mattock swung an inviting centre which saw Kirk Broadfoot rise highest but he was unable to generate power into his header as it dribbled harmlessly wide of the target.
Just past the quarter hour, the visitors missed a gilt-edged chance to break the deadlock when Mattock’s backpass was not dealt with decisively by Wood and David Nugent pounced on the defensive hesitation to race clear but despite just having Camp to beat, the one-time England striker scooped an effort over the bar when he really should have done better.
The Millers were living on the edge as Wood was penalised for hauling down Nugent and the inform Gaston Ramirez almost made the home side pay from the resultant free-kick as he curled a delightful effort which sailed over the Rotherham wall but with Camp flying across goal, the ball struck the inside of the post before rolling to safety as the home fans breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Just before the half hour, Rotherham launched a swift counter attack with Frecklington leading the cavalry charge and the move involved Best, Thomas and Halford before the ball was played back into the path of Best, who hammered his shot into the ground as his effort failed to trouble the target.
Minutes later, Richie Smallwood became the first to see yellow for a mistimed tackle before the home fans had their hearts in their mouths when Ramirez took aim with a dipping half-volley from just outside the box but the ball fizzed narrowly wide of the home goal.
The visitors were looking the most likely and Albert Adomah cut inside to deliver a fantastic centre which saw Nugent ghost in between the home rearguard to plant a downward header, from inside the six-yard box, but to Rotherham’s relief, the ball shaved the upright.
Moments later, Thomas’ fantastic corner skimmed off a ‘Boro head and was inches away from finding Halford at the far post before Derbyshire became the latest to be cautioned after he tripped Nugent in full flow after he superbly tracked back following a lightning counter from the visitors.
Moments later, Stuani clipped a cross which bisected the advancing runners but found Adomah, who tried an opportunistic header, which fizzed harmlessly wide of the target before Halford executed a well-crafted half volley which had Dimi Konstantopoulos nervously scurrying across goal as it flew narrowly wide - at the other end.
With half-time approaching, Ramirez fired a daisycutter which kissed the turf forcing Camp into a full-length save before Nugent scuffed an effort well wide of the home goal following a well-worked ‘Boro corner in the last action of the half.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Middlesbrough 0
Following the interval, the visitors struggled to recreate their first half rhythm and Thomas’ dangerous corner followed by Halford’s bullet throw had the away defence at sixes and sevens but ‘Boro managed to scramble the ball clear.
In the home side’s next attack, Derbyshire fought hard to win the corner and Mattock floated a delicate centre which looked inviting for the head of Halford, but he was unable to steer his header goalwards before the utility player turned provider as he almost found Danny Ward at the near post but the ball was deflected behind.
From the resultant corner, Mattock clipped a centre which saw Broadfoot climb highest to power a header which grazed the visitors upright before Thomas’ free-kick again found the head of the Scottish international, who nodded the ball down into the path of Frecklington, who volleyed over the bar from a promising position.
The visitors were looking a pale shadow of their first-half performance and Ramirez’s frustration boiled over with a hack at Smallwood which resulted in a yellow card for the Uruguayan before a ‘Boro clearance ricocheted off Danny Ward close to goal but fortunately for the visitors, it flew straight down the throat of Konstantopoulos.
With time running out for both sides, sub Jonson Clarke-Harris headed wide from Halford’s long throw before Ramirez fluffed his lines by blazing over from a promising position following good work from Downing.
Halford became the latest to see yellow for a clash with Ramirez near the touchline before Rotherham scored the decisive winner when Wood’s ball down the flank saw Clarke-Harris win a tussle with Dael Fry before squaring the ball across the box and the ball fell invitingly for the advancing run of Frecklington, who smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
The game took another twist when Halford was sent for an early bath following a late tackle before the visitors laid siege to the home goal with Clayton having a shot blocked before Broadfoot made a superb hoicked clearance from George Friend’s superb centre.
In the dying seconds, Adomah had an effort blocked by a ruck of home bodies before the final whistle brought scenes of jubiliation at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 Middlesbrough 0
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Camp, Richardson (Kelly 25), Wood, Broadfoot, Mattock, Halford, Smallwood, Frecklington, Thomas (Clarke-Harris 75), Derbyshire, Best (D Ward 58). Unused- Kenny, Green, Newell, G Ward.
Middlesbrough- Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Fry, Gibson, Friend, Clayton, Forshaw, Stuani (Downing 64), Ramirez, Adomah, Nugent (Rhodes 75). Unused:- Agazzi, Leadbitter, De Pena, De Sart, Kalas.
Referee: P Bankes
Attendance: 10783 (2623)