ROTHERHAM United slipped to their first defeat in three games as Fulham ran out comfortable victors at Craven Cottage.
Cauley Woodrow netted twice either side of Farrend Rawson’s equaliser for Neil Redfearn’s men to give the Cottagers an interval lead.
Despite Rotherham’s best efforts, an unfortunate Kirk Broadfoot own goal gave the Londoners a two-goal cushion before Ross McCormack added a fourth with a well-taken strike soon after.
Following back-to-back victories over Hull City and Bolton Wanderers respectively, the Millers named an unchanged line-up for the visit to West London while for the hosts, former Rotherham star Ben Pringle was named amongst the home substitutes.
The Cottagers settled into the clash the quicker and they stunned the visitors faithful by taking the lead with their first foray of note on seven minutes.
There looked little danger for the Millers until Scott Parker threaded a pass through the heart of the Rotherham defence and with no visiting defender in a position to intercept the pass, the ball rolled tantalisingly into the path of Woodrow, who kept his nerve to round the advancing Lee Camp before sliding the ball into the unguarded net.
The hosts were buoyed by the breakthrough and McCormack’s pass paved the way for Alexander Kacaniklic to try his luck from distance but Camp smartly smothered his long-range effort.
The Millers came close to levelling matters when Tony Andreu’s swinging corner had Andrew Lonergan flapping at thin air as Ryan Fredericks was forced to head clear from his own line at the back post.
Minutes later, Frecklington pounced on a loose ball on halfway before advancing with menace to drill a fierce effort which Lonergan had to parry to safety before Kacaniklic worked a yard of space on Frazer Richardson at the other end to dribble a low effort which had Camp nervously scurrying across goal as it shaved the visitors upright.
Moments later, Danny Ward had two attempts at goal forcing Lonergan into a smart save before firing a snap effort which was deflected narrowly wide of the target by Tim Ream.
However, the Millers were not to be denied as they equalised from the resulting corner.
Newell swung a tantalising centre which saw Broadfoot rise highest to power a header towards goal but although his effort was blocked en-route to goal by one of his colleagues, Rawson was on-hand to smash the ball home via the underside of the crossbar from six yards.
The ball bounced out of the goal but referee Simon Hooper adjudged the ball had crossed the line to send the travelling contingent into ecstasy.
The Millers were lifted by the strike and Newell almost sneaked in at the back post following Frecklington’s cross but his effort struck the side netting before Danny Ward had a goalbound shot blocked by a retreating defender after Broadfoot’s deft flick set up the chance.
Broadfoot was being a threat in the home box and he again rose highest from another Newell corner to loop a header goalwards but Fulham managed to scramble the ball clear despite Andreu lerking menacingly as he looked to turn the ball home from close range.
At the half hour mark, McCormack’s free-kick found Richard Stearman at the far post but the ex-Wolves defender could not steer the ball goalwards from an acute angle before the Millers had Joe Mattock to thank for keeping the scores level as he made a superb last-ditch tackle to prevent Woodrow tapping home following Kacaniklic’s dangerous centre.
The home side were turning up the heat and Broadfoot was well-placed to snuff out another Kacaniklic cross before Grant Ward started and finished a lightning Rotherham counter before unleashing a rasping effort which fizzed narrowly over the home bar.
With half-time approaching, Fulham missed a gilt-edged chance to regain the lead when McCormack played a one-two with Hyndman, who put the ex-Leeds striker through on goal but Camp was his equal as he stood up tall to block his tame effort.
However, the home side were not to be denied as they took the lead in their next attack as the Scotland international went from villain to hero in the matter of seconds.
The home side switched play and McCormack played a fantastic centre across the face of the Rotherham backline and Woodrow sneaked in unnoticed to carefully steer the ball into the corner of the net giving Camp no chance.
Half-time:- Fulham 2 Rotherham United 1
Following the restart, the visiting fans had their hearts in their mouths when Hyndman’s eye-of-a-needle pass put McCormack in the clear and the home striker
cleverly dinked the ball into the unguarded net with Camp in no man’s land but to Rotherham’s relief, the assistant referee had already raised his flag.
Minutes later, the Millers came close to levelling matters for a second time when Andreu’s clever pass carved open the home defence and Grant Ward raced clear to plant a left-footed effort which was smartly saved by Lonergan.
In an enthralling encounter, McCormack’s clever pass released Fredericks, who bared down on goal, before playing a ball across the danger area which Richardson hacked clear from his own line before Rotherham turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye and sub Jonson Clarke-Harris cut inside to fire a rasping effort which brought the best of Lonergan with an acrobatic save.
However, the home side took a stranglehold on the game just before the hour mark when McCormack got the better of two Rotherham defenders to release Woodrow, who advanced into the box to slide a cross which Broadfoot, in attempting to clear, could only divert the ball into his own goal as he was under pressure from a home attacker.
The visitors responded bravely to the setback and Danny Ward raced down the left flank before planting a deep centre which was caught on the volley by Grant Ward but his effort screwed wide of the target before Newell’s rising shot from distance fizzed narrowly over the bar.
However, the home side sealed the deal as they netted a fourth with just over 20 minutes to go when Rotherham failed to deal with a long ball forward and Dan Burn’s knockdown was controlled smartly by McCormack, who made no mistake as he fired into the corner of the net.
The hosts were running riot and Tom Cairney got the better of Richie Smallwood to release Woodrow, who was denied his hat-trick, thanks to a point-blank save from Camp at his near post.
Minutes later, Camp’s up-and-under presented Woodrow with another opportunity to claim the matchball but his long-range header cleared the crossbar before Rotherham came close to grabbing a consolation when Rawson’s knockdown paved the way for Mattock to head goalwards but a combination of the home bar and Lonergan kept the ball out.
In the last action of the game, sub Paul Green fired over as the Millers made the long trek north empty-handed.
Full-time:- Fulham 4 Rotherham United 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Fulham- Lonergan, Fredericks, Stearman, Burn, Ream, Cairney (O’Hara 87), Parker (Smith 80), Hyndman, Kacaniklic (Pringle 72), McCormack, Woodrow. Unused- Lewis, Garbutt, Hutchinson, Mattila.
Rotherham- Camp; Richardson (Green 62), Rawson, Broadfoot, Mattock; Smallwood, Frecklington; G Ward, Andreu (Clarke-Harris 55), Newell; D Ward (Derbyshire 84). Unused- Collin, Collins, Ledesma, Thorpe.
Referee- S Hooper