JORDAN Bowery’s first-half strike proved the difference as Rotherham United booked a place in the League Cup second round hat at the expense of League Two Cambridge United.
Following an even first-half, Bowery latched onto Joe Newell’s pinpoint centre in first-half stoppage time to give the Millers an interval lead.
Despite missing a host of chances after the break, Steve Evans’ men held on to book their passage into the next round.
Following their opening day league defeat at the hands of Milton Keynes Dons, the Millers made four changes to their starting line-up for the visit of Richard Money’s side.
The home faithful had their first glimpse of ex-Wednesday defender Lewis Buxton, who was granted his Millers debut following an injury plagued pre-season campaign while skipper Greg Halford reverted to a central defensive position partnering Danny Collins.
Lee Frecklington and Emmanuel Ledesma were given an opportunity to impress in the Millers’ engine room while Bowery partnered Matt Derbyshire in the forward berths with Danny Ward named amongst the substitutes.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Newell swung in a tantalising centre which narrowly evaded the attentions of Derbyshire before ex-Barnsley midfielder Luke Berry had Cambridge’s first effort of note when he tried his luck from distance but his snap shot whistled past the home upright.
Moments later, Derbyshire saw his deft volley blocked by a retreating defender before Jordan Slew’s menacing run had Collins backtracking into his own box, but the former Millers loanee fluffed his lines with a scooped effort which failed to trouble the home goal.
The home side had a scare when Elliott Omozusi’s crossfield pass paved the way for Daniel Carr to slash an arrowed effort which had Kelle Roos nervously scurrying across goal before Newell’s incisive run and cross saw the ball ricochet into the path of Derbyshire, who nodded the ball towards goal but his instinctive effort floated narrowly over the bar.
Moments later, Richie Smallwood picked out a superb diagonal pass which saw Ledesma ghost away from the last line of defence but his powerful header was straight down the throat of Chris Dunn before Derbyshire’s goalbound effort was superbly blocked by U’s skipper Mark Roberts in the next phase of play.
Just past the half-hour mark, Bowery was inches away from connecting with Ledesma’s swerving centre before George Taft’s bullet throw saw Collins rise highest but the home fans had their hearts in their mouths as his header smashed into the side netting.
With half-time approaching, Ledesma blazed an effort from long range into the visiting faithful behind the goal before Smallwood’s dipping half-volley was spilled by Dunn initially but with no home runners in attendance, the United ‘keeper was able to gather at the second attempt.
With one minute of stoppage time declared, the Millers took a firm grip on the game with the opening goal.
Following a switch of play, Newell weighed up his options before delivering an inch-perfect cross for the run of Bowery, who had worked a yard of space on his marker and the ex-Villa striker made no mistake as he planted a firm header into the heart of the visitors’ goal.
Half-time- Rotherham United 1 Cambridge United 0
The Millers were quick out of the blocks in the second half and the lively Newell got to the byline before delivering another dangerous centre which Taft had to clear with a last-ditch header before Frecklington fizzed an arching effort from the edge of the box which sailed narrowly wide.
Moments later, Bowery fired a daisycutter through a ruck of bodies which had Dunn nervously scurrying across goal before Ledesma’s eye-catching pass put Derbyshire in the clear but with Dunn standing up tall to block his goalbound effort, any goal would have been chalked off for offside.
The Millers were looking the most likely and a fine flowing move saw Aidy White clip a cross which saw Derbyshire get infront of his marker to glance a header narrowly wide before Frecklington got on the end of Bowery’s incisive pull-back to curl an effort from the edge of the box which grazed the visitors upright.
In a rare foray from the visitors, Smallwood became the first to see yellow with a cynical trip on Slew as he looked to strike following a slick visitors counter but Berry failed to make the home side pay from the resultant free-kick as he ballooned his effort over from an inviting position.
Just past the hour mark, Buxton’s clipped cross over the visitors rearguard saw Derbyshire ghost in behind but his deft flick prompted a smart save from Dunn, who smartly dived to his left to keep the ball out.
Derbyshire was in the thick of the action once again when his shot on the spin stung the palms of Dunn before White’s cross-cum-shot almost found the bottom corner but Berry hacked the ball clear at the far stick.
With the game in the balance, Halford twice came close to doubling the home advantage when his goalbound effort was deflected wide before he rose highest from the resultant corner but his towering header flew narrowly over.
Despite rarely looking threatened, the Millers’ had a scare when Omozusi got behind the back before pulling the ball back into the path of former Miller Conor Newton, who struck a low effort which brought the best of Roos, who made a flying save across goal as it arrowed towards the bottom corner.
From the resultant corner, Josh Coulson rose highest to meet Ryan Donaldson’s centre but he could not control his header as it cleared the crossbar.
In injury time, Newton almost came back to haunt his former club as he put Donaldson in the clear, who cleverly clipped the ball over the advancing Roos but although White made superb ground to clear the ball from his own line, any goal would have ruled out for offside.
With the game on a knife edge, Newton almost pounced on Roos’ weak punch but he failed to make a connection before sub Danny Ward dragged a shot wide while Derbyshire curled an effort narrowly off target in the last play of the game as the Millers held on to record victory.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 Cambridge United 0
Teams- Rotherham- Roos, Buxton (Richardson 76), Collins, Frecklington, Ledesma, White, Halford, Bowery (D Ward 80), Newell (G Ward 73), Derbyshire, Smallwood. Unused- Collin, Maguire, Green, Thorpe
Cambridge- Dunn, Omozusi, Taylor (Dunk 64), Keane, Roberts, Berry, Slew, Coulson, Simpson (Donaldson 64), Carr (Newton 64), Taft. Unused- Beasant, Morrissey, Hughes, Chiedozie.
Referee- C. Sarginson
Attendance- 4568 (408).