Rotherham United fell to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Premier League hopefuls Brighton and Hove Albion as the two sides met at the Amex Stadium on Tuesday night.
First half strikes from Anthony Knockaert and Glenn Murray had the Seagulls flying at the interval before Tomer Hemed’s penalty after the restart added gloss to the scoreline, despite a late Millers fightback.
Alan Stubbs reshuffled his pack for the trip to the South Coast by making two changes with the emission of Jake Forster-Caskey forced due to terms in his loan agreement, while Richard Wood also stepped aside to assume a place on the bench.
That paved the way for summer signings Kelvin Wilson and Darnell Fisher to occupy starting berths with the latter making his full debut after an impressive showing as a substitute at Villa Park at the weekend.
The Millers first foray forward of note arrived on the 10 minute-mark when Richie Smallwood opened up to spray a nice pass out to the right flank to Fisher, whose cross picked the midfielder back out 20 yards from goal, but the former Middlesbrough man lost his footing as he opened up to pull the trigger.
Stubbs’ side had enjoyed large spells of the possession early in the game but Brighton threatened to defy the stats with an opener just shy of quarter of an hour into the game.
Some heroic defending from a crowd of lime green shirts ensured neither Dale Stephens nor Glenn Murray were able to get away a shot as they charged into the box before the former took aim from distance moments later only to see his strike fly well-wide of Lee Camp’s goal.
Five minutes later the visitors almost found themselves on the front foot from the unlikeliest of goal sources. A quick free kick saw Smallwood exchange passes with Fisher before a ball into the box dropped for skipper Stephen Kelly whose powerful drive was only a whisker over the crossbar.
The opener did come moments later and for the hosts despite the Millers dominance of the possession. One time Leicester City man Anthony Knockaert picked the ball up 25 yards from goal before shaping up a sumptuous effort which found the corner of Camp’s goal via the foot of the post.
Seconds after the restart Will Vaulks lashed an effort narrowly wide as the Millers looked for an immediate reply but the pendulum swung back in Brighton’s favour as they doubled their lead just two minutes after Knockaert’s opener.
This time the Seagulls constructed a flowing move down the right flank which was capped by Liam Rosenior’s cross into the box which Glenn Murray met with a timely finish to establish a two-goal cushion for his side after 26 minutes.
The Millers forged their final chance of the half moments before the whistle when Joe Mattock’s marauding run up the left allowed him room for a cross, but Ward’s header was well-challenged by the hosts’ defence and failed to threaten Niki Maenpaa’s goal.
Half Time | Brighton and Hove Albion 2 v 0 Rotherham
Chris Hughton’s side thought that they had netted a third five minutes after the restart when Tomer Hemed turned the ball home following a cross from the left, but referee Mr Hooper pulled it back for an infringement during an aerial battle in the penalty area to deny the hosts the goal.
Brighton’s third did arrive just five minutes later though following a rapid attack from the hosts which yielded a penalty. A quick free kick saw the ball farmed out to the right wing where a cross came in from the dangerous Knockaert searching for Murray who was adjudged to have been sent sprawling in the box by Kelly, who conceded a penalty and earned himself a booking in the process.
Tomer Hemed stepped up confidently in front of the 25,000-strong home support and made no mistake as he coolly dispatched his effort from 12 yards to make it 3-0 to the hosts.
Stubbs’ side continued to battle despite the deficit and looked to trouble Maenpaa in the hosts’ goal after some clever build up on the right-hand side.
A fluent interchange between Fisher and substitute Scott Allan yielded some space for Ward to cross at the byline but his centre was plucked out of the air by the Brighton number one with a number of lime green shirts lurking.
The Millers showed signs of improvement as the game progressed and Will Vaulks ensured Maenpaa’s concentration levels were still in tact on 70 minutes.
The former Falkirk man who scored a belter on the opening day against Wolves looked to recreate that feat with a thunderous strike from 25 yards which forced an expert save from Maenpaa to deny the Millers a way back into the game.
The Brighton stopper was called into action again moments later when an underhit backpass called for an alert response in the box with Taylor breathing down his neck, and Maenpaa’s hasty clearance had a hint of fortune to it as it clipped the ex-Peterborough attackers ankles and rolled away from danger.
Stubbs’ side refused to relent even as the game entered the dying embers and the entrance of Allan strongly coincided with the Millers’ added threat in the final third.
It was the on loan Celtic man who angled a cross from deep into the box which looked destined for Ward to apply the finish only for it to narrowly escape his lunge in front of goal.
Moments from the end Allan was again the architect as he launched an attack from midfield before linking up with Ward again, who shifted the ball onto his left foot before driving the ball over from just inside the area.
Full Time | Brighton and Hove Albion 3 v 0 Rotherham.
Brighton and Hove Albion: Maenpaa, Saltor ©, Dunk, Rosenior, Bong, Knockaert (Lua Lua 69), Stephens, Norwood, Murphy, Hemed, Murray (Baldock 69).
Unused: Ankergren, Kayal, Skalak, Sidwell, White.
Millers: Camp, Fisher (Thorpe 89), Kelly ©, Ball, Wilson, Mattock, Smallwood, Vaulks, Forde (Allan HT), Ward, Taylor.
Unused: Price, Wood, Yates, Warren.
Attendance: 25,128 (248 away).