ROTHERHAM UNITED slipped to their first home league defeat of the season as Cardiff City overturned a second-half deficit to run out 2-1 victors thanks to Rickie Lambert’s brace.
The Millers looked on course to record victory on the hour mark when Izzy Brown stroked home but home joy soon turned to despair as Lambert struck twice in six minutes to give the Welshmen victory.
Following last week’s defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers, the Millers made three changes to their starting line-up for the visit of the Bluebirds.
Club skipper Lee Frecklington made a welcome return to the Millers engine room as Tom Adeyemi was ineligible to face his parent club and he was joined by Joe Newell, who returned following a spell on the sidelines.
Darnell Fisher was named in the right-back slot following his one-match ban for his sending off in the last home outing against Nottingham Forest as Stephen Kelly missed out because of injury.
The home side were given a pre-match boost as Dexter Blackstock was named in the Millers squad for the first time after joining the club as a free agent following the transfer deadline.
Following a slow start by both sides, the Millers had the first foray of note when Greg Halford’s long throw pinged around the visitors’ box, before Matthew Connolly blasted the ball to safety.
Minutes later, Halford’s mistimed tackle felled Lex Immers in a central position but from the resultant free-kick, Lambert fluffed his lines when his effort blazed over the home goal.
Home ‘keeper Lee Camp had a stroke of luck when his weak clearance ricocheted off Craig Noone to safety before Cardiff failed to deal with a Joe Newell centre and the ball fell kindly in the box for Dael Fry, whose instinctive effort stung the palms of Ben Amos before Lambert struck out a timely leg to prevent Jon Taylor firing home the rebound.
Moments later, another bullet throw from Halford caught the Cardiff defence napping as Brown sneaked around the back to power a header which was blocked en-route to goal before Fry’s delicate ball over the top was taken in his stride by Danny Ward, who cut inside with menace, before curling an effort which had Amos at full stretch as he snuffed out the danger.
Moments later, Newell’s slide-rule pass gave Ward another glimpse of goal and the inform striker drilled a low effort which was arrowing into the bottom corner before Amos’ late intervention before Brown’s mazy run, in the Millers’ next attack, had the Welshmen on the backfoot as he ghosted to the edge of the box to fire a rasping drive which whistled narrowly wide of the target.
At the other end, Immers screwed an effort harmlessly wide of the Millers goal before Noone made something out of nothing to work a shooting position as he fired a rising effort from long-range which narrowly cleared the home crossbar.
Just before the half-hour, Stuart O’Keefe became the first to see yellow for a trip on Newell before the Millers fans’ had their hearts in their mouths when Ralls took aim to arrow a fierce effort which had Camp nervously scurrying across goal as it shaved the home upright.
Ralls was in the thick of the action and his superb through ball seemed to have put Immers in the clear but Kelvin Wilson was on his toes to prevent the visitors’ striker shooting goalwards.
From the resultant corner, Whittingham’s inswinging centre was straight under the crossbar and with a ruck of bodies on the line, a headed pullback paved the way for Lambert to try his luck with a hooked effort, but Frecklington was well-stationed to clear the danger off his own line.
The Bluebirds were growing into the game and Sean Morrison headed over following Whittingham’s corner before Morrison showed his defensive instincts at the other end when his diving clearance cut out Halford’s tantalising centre following excellent work by Newell on halfway.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Cardiff City 0
Following the break, quick thinking from Fisher and Brown almost saw Ward sneak in at the near post but his header was deflected wide before Frecklington’s snap shot from the edge of the box was blocked by Immers en-route to goal.
At the other end, Ralls again tried his luck from distance but his effort flew harmlessly over the bar before Noone latched onto Lambert’s clip over the top before sliding the ball past Camp but any Bluebird joy was short lived as the assistant referee had already his flag.
Just before the hour mark, the Millers made the timely breakthrough when another exocet throw from Halford caused havoc in the Cardiff box and Wilson looked to strike goalwards but his effort was blocked before Fry had the awareness to flick the ball into the path of Brown, who kept his nerve to calmly stroke the ball home from close range.
The visitors responded positively to the setback and O’Keefe volleyed over following Lambert’s cushioned assist before Connolly rose highest from Whittingham’s corner to loop a header over the Millers’ bar.
Connolly became the latest player to be cautioned after a cynical charge halted Brown’s purposeful run and the Millers almost made the visitors pay from the resultant free-kick but Wilson’s header from Newell’s centre was straight down the throat of Amos.
However, the Bluebirds dragged themselves back on level terms with 17 minutes to go when Mattock was penalised and Whittingham floated a delicate free-kick into the Millers box which saw Lambert emerge at the back post to plant a downward header which sneaked into the bottom corner of the home goal.
The ex-Liverpool and Southampton striker was proving a thorn in Rotherham’s side and the game was turned on its head, six minutes later, when Morrison launched a long throw into the box and with the home side unable to clear the danger, Lambert latched onto the loose ball to poke the ball towards goal and it took a wicked deflection off Fisher to wrongfoot Camp, as it dribbled into the home net.
Home frustration was summed up when Halford became the next to see yellow for a late lunge on Whittingham before Frecklington almost put Ward in the clear but the ball raced away from the home frontman.
Moments later, Blackstock almost made an immediate impression with the home fans when he looked to scuff the ball towards goal but he was crowded out by visiting defenders.
Despite a late rally from the home side, the Bluebirds successfully ran down the clock to inflict the home side’s first league defeat at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Full-time- Rotherham United 1 Cardiff City 2
Rotherham United 1
Cardiff City 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Camp, Mattock, Frecklington, Ward, Taylor, Halford, Wilson, Fisher, Fry, Newell (Blackstock 82), Brown. Unused- Price, Vaulks, Forde, Forster-Caskey, Ball, Yates.
Cardiff- Amos, Peltier (Ecuele Manga 88), Morrison, Richards, Whittingham, Ralls (Harris 70), Immers, Noone, Connolly, Lambert, O’Keefe. Unused- Wilson, John, Kennedy, Hughes, Zohore.
Referee- D Coote
Attendance- 8348 (390)