ROTHERHAM United bowed out of the Capital One Cup at the second round stage despite giving Premier League Norwich City a run for their money in a pulsating clash at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Goals either side of the interval from Jonny Howson and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel put the Canaries in charge despite Declan Rudd being the busy keeper and sub Paul Green finally gave the Millers a lifeline with ten minutes to go.
Despite a late flurry from the Millers which saw Green head wide with full time approaching, Alex Neil’s men held to book their place in the third round hat.
Following their defeat at the hands of Queens Park Rangers at the weekend, the Millers made two changes to their starting line-up for the visit of the Canaries.
Adam Collin was handed his first start of the campaign between the home sticks as Kelle Roos had to settle for a substitutes berth while Frazer Richardson was given an opportunity to impress in the left-back slot allowing Joe Newell to play in his favoured midfield role as Richie Smallwood missed out due to an injury sustained at Loftus Road.
The visitors were quick of the blocks and a switch of play allowed Andre Wisdom to venture forward and after exchanging passes with Van Wolfswinkel, the Liverpool loanee slashed a shot wide of the target.
Moments later, Bradley Johnson paved the way for Gary O’Neil to race clear down the left flank and his pull-back was controlled smartly by Howson, who bared down on goal but Richardson’s superb sliding tackle prevented the ex-Leeds midfielder striking on goal.
The Millers hopes of an upset suffered a blow as midfield dynamo Lee Frecklington had to be replaced just past the quarter hour as he failed to shrug off an injury following a clash with Wisdom before Jonson Clarke-Harris became the first to incur the wrath of the referee as he was cautioned following a rash tackle on Sebastien Bassong.
The game turned on its head in a whirlwind sixty seconds when the Millers came within a whisker of the opener when Chris Maguire’s deft flick left Harry Toffolo in a daze presenting Grant Ward with the opportunity to float an inviting cross which was met by the head of Clarke-Harris, whose powerful header was parried to safety by Declan Rudd.
The visitors’ turned defence into attack with the blink of an eye with the cavalry charge led by Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe and the winger’s incisive pass was controlled smartly by Howson, who kept his nerve to drill an effort from the edge of the box which beat the outstretched hand of Collin before nestling in the far corner of the net.
The home side responded positively to the setback and Emmanuel Ledesma pounced on a loose ball before firing a drive which skimmed off the surface prompting Rudd to take evasive action with a sprawling save before the ball rolled invitingly into the path of the onrushing Lewis Buxton, but the Norwich ‘keeper was back on his feet to smother his tame rebound effort.
Minutes later, Matt Derbyshire got the better of a tussle with Basssong and Clarke-Harris was on his toes to toe-poke an effort from just outside the box which forced Rudd into a smart save.
Just past the half hour mark, the Millers had their hearts in the mouths when Wisdom’s tantalising cross saw Johnson head down into the turf and although the ball fell invitingly for Van Wolfswinkel, who nodded home as he got the ball before Collin, but his joy was shortlived as the assistant referee had already flagged for offside.
Moments later, Graham Dorrans scooped a shot over from the edge of the box after Rotherham failed to clear decisively before Halford’s bullet throw caused havoc in the Canaries box at the other end but Derbyshire was unable to turn the ball goalwards as the far stick.
The Millers had Collin to thank for keeping them in the game on the stroke of half-time as a flurry of passes split open the Rotherham rearguard with Johnson’s slide-rule pass giving Van Wolfswinkel an opportunity to strike on goal but the ex-Carlisle stopper stood up tall to block his goalbound effort.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Norwich City 1
Following the interval, the visitors had the first sight of goal when Johnson started and finished the move which saw the Canaries skipper screw a shot harmlessly wide of the target.
Moments later, Maguire’s long punt upfield saw Derbyshire in a footrace with Ryan Bennett and the ex-Forest striker got the better of the visitors defender to have a glimpse of goal but his long range shot was deflected over.
From the resultant corner, Maguire swung a tantalising centre which saw Greg Halford peel away at the back stick to force Rudd into a reflex save and the Canaries could only half clear into the path of Newell, who flashed a rasping effort from the edge of the box which forced Rudd into a flying save to tip the ball over the crossbar.
The visitors looked slightly rattled and Bassong saw yellow for cynically hauling down Derbyshire before Ledesma showed great tenacity to steal possession from Dorrans on the edge of the box before firing a left-footed effort which fizzed past the visitors upright with Rudd a helpless bystander.
Just past the hour mark, Johnson became the latest to see yellow for a late tackle on Maguire before Dorrans blazed an effort over from distance.
The Scottish midfielder turned creator in the Canaries next foray of note when his perfectly weighted pass saw Toffolo strike goalwards but again Collin was well-stationed to block his effort with his legs.
The visitors wasted a gilt-edged chance to double their advantage when a long punt forward was superbly taken out of the air by Van Wolfswinkel giving the Canaries a two-on-one scenario and with Dorrans involved once again, Johnson blasted an effort from just eight yards high into the large travelling contingent despite having the goal at his mercy.
However, Alex Neil’s men did not have to wait long to notch a second when Wisdom was released in space on the right flank and the full-back weighed up his options before expertly picking out the run of Van Wolfswinkel, who had ghosted away from the home rearguard and the Dutch striker deftly flicked the ball into the heart of the goal from short range.
The Millers wasted an opportunity to drag themselves back in the tie when Bassong’s underhit backpass saw Derbyshire win the tackle with Rudd and with the Norwich ‘keeper out of the game, the Millers striker looked to scoop the ball into the unguarded visitors goal but under pressure from Bennett, his clip cleared the crossbar.
The ex-Olympiakos hitman almost redeemed himself moments later when Richardson’s clearance was flicked on by a retreating defender into the path of Derbyshire, who advanced menacingly towards the edge of the box before curling an effort which was arrowing towards the bottom corner until Rudd produced a superb flying save to preserve his side’s two-goal advantage.
However, the Millers finally gave themselves a lifeline with ten minutes to go when Maguire’s floated free-kick was aimed towards Halford and the ball was headed into the path of sub Green, who kept his nerve to fire a volley from the edge of the box which flashed into the corner of the goal giving Rudd no chance.
With the game in the balance, subs Elliott Bennett and Tony Andreu combined smartly when the former gave the latter an opportunity to wrap up the tie but he blasted over when he should have done better.
The Millers almost made the Norfolk side pay late in the game when Maguire’s inviting centre saw Green emerge from a ruck of bodies in the six-yard box but his unmarked header failed to trouble the visitors goal.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 Norwich City 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Buxton, Collins, Frecklington (Maguire 16), Ledesma (White 76), Halford, Richardson, G Ward (Green 76), Clarke-Harris, Newell, Derbyshire. Unused- Roos, D Ward, Rawson, Thorpe.
Norwich- Rudd, Wisdom, Johnson, Bassong, Howson (Andreu 74), Toffolo, Dorrans (E Bennett 80), R Bennett, O’Neil, Van Wolfswinkel, Odjidja-Ofoe. Unused- Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Redmond, Thompson.
Referee- K Wright
Attendance- 5,648 (1,029).