ROTHERHAM UNITED returned to Championship action following the international break as they were defeated 3-0 by high-flying Derby County.
The home side raced into a two-goal lead within the first 20 minutes after Tom Ince fired home a rebound after Lee Camp had saved his spot kick before Darren Bent added a second just four minutes later.
Ince calmly added a third for the home side after the break but Camp denied the former England U21 international a hat-trick with a superb penalty save.
Millers chief Kenny Jackett made four changes to the Millers’ starting line-up for the visit to the iPro Stadium.
Utility player Greg Halford was asked to partner stand-in skipper Richard Wood at the heart of the Rotherham rearguard while Tom Adeyemi and Jake Forster-Caskey were recalled in the visitors’ engine room.
Following his impressive second-half cameo against Preston in the Millers’ last outing, Nigerian international Peter Odemwingie was rewarded with his first start in Rotherham colours behind in-form striker Danny Ward, who was asked by Jackett to ply a lone furrow upfront, in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Following a scrappy opening by both teams, Johnny Russell injected pace into a home move to drive hard at the Rotherham defence but Halford made a timely intervention to snuff out the danger.
The game took a cruel twist for the visitors on the quarter hour when Joe Mattock gave Odemwingie a sight of goal and the ex-Stoke City forward drilled a low shot which ricocheted in the path of Bradley Johnson, who led a home breakaway, and the home midfielder threaded a ball into the channel which saw Ince cut inside before being felled in the box by Darnell Fisher and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
From the resultant penalty, Ince dusted himself down to take the spot kick and Camp guessed correctly as he dived to his left to keep out his low effort but unfortunately for the Millers, the ball rolled back into the path of the ex-Hull City winger, who had the simple task of tapping home into the unguarded net.
The home side were buoyed by the breakthrough and they took the game by the scruff of the net, four minutes later, when they doubled their advantage.
Jacob Butterfield pounced on the breakdown of a Rotherham attack to counter quickly before rolling the ball into the path of Bent, who controlled smartly before working a yard of space on Wood to drill a low effort from the edge of the box which beat the outstretched hand of Camp before finding the bottom corner of the visitors net.
Things almost got worse for the Millers when good work from Ince gave Bent another glimpse of goal but, this time, his low effort was smothered smartly by Camp before Joe Newell had Rotherham’s first foray of note when he fired goalwards from an acute angle but England stopper Scott Carson was well-positioned at his near post to gather smartly.
Minutes later, Ince had a shot blocked en-route to goal before Chris Baird flashed a long-range effort which was deflected narrowly wide. From the resultant corner, Butterfield delivered a tantalising centre which saw Alex Pearce rise highest to power a header, which looked certain to find the net, but Camp pulled off a top-drawer one-handed save to superbly keep the ball out.
Minutes later, Will Hughes’ deft through ball paved the way for Russell to drag an effort across the face of goal before Fisher’s quick long throw caught the Rams napping and Newell fired an effort which stung the palms of Carson, before the ball was bundled clear.
With half-time approaching, Butterfield was again the architect as Hughes fired an effort over from the edge of the box before Camp was called into action when Ince drilled an effort straight down his throat from the edge of the box following Russell’s clever knockdown.
Half-time- Derby County 2 Rotherham United 0
Following the interval, Derby were quick out of the blocks and after Mattock tripped Ince on the edge of the box, the former England U21 international failed to exact retribution when he blasted high and wide before Mattock’s slide-rule ball gave Ward, an opportunity to strike but his effort smashed into the side-netting.
With the referee bringing back the play for a foul on Mattock in the build-up, Taylor curled the resultant free-kick over the Derby wall but Carson scurried across his own line to snuff out the danger.
Minutes later, Adeyemi became the first to see yellow for a crunching tackle on Johnson before Derby added a third, just seconds after Rotherham had made a double substitution with Izzy Brown and Will Vaulks entering the fray.
In the next phase of play, the Rotherham rearguard held a high line and Johnson’s bullet header went over the top of the defence and Ince, who was in acres of space, raced clear before keeping his nerve in the one-on-one with Camp, by sliding the ball into the heart of the Millers goal.
Ince and Camp were having a personal duel and the ex-Derby ‘keeper won a battle of wills, just moments later, when the referee awarded a second spot-kick when Mattock tripped Ince in the box, following a clever piece of footwork from the home frontman.
Ince weighed up his options from 12 yards but Camp, for the second time, correctly dived to his right to keep the ball out, but this time, the ball was diverted to safety.
The Millers refused to throw in the towel and Ward had a shot blocked en-route to goal before Halford’s downward header, in their next attack, was scrambled clear by the ruck of home bodies in the box.
Camp was proving a thorn in his former club’s side as he was well-stationed to deny sub Andreas Weimann’s stabbed effort before fellow sub Matej Vydra played an clever one-two with Ince to bare down on goal but the Rotherham stopper again proved an excellent last line of defence.
At the other end, Odemwingie was cautioned for simulation before Brown released Newell, who struck a low effort from distance, which took a slight deflection and although Carson was rooted to his line, the ball fizzed narrowly wide of the target.
In stoppage time, Hughes fired over following a fine-flowing move by the home side before the referee brought the game to a close.
Full-time- Derby County 3 Rotherham United 0
Derby County 3
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Derby- Carson, Keogh, Russell (Weimann 62), Ince, Bent (Vydra 68), Baird, Johnson (Bryson 81), Pearce, Butterfield, Hughes, Lowe. Unused- Mitchell, Shackell, Anya, Hanson.
Rotherham- Camp, Mattock, Wood, Ward, Forster-Caskey (Vaulks 61), Taylor (Brown 61), Odemwingie, Halford, Fisher, Newell, Adeyemi. Unused- Price, Kelly, Fry, Belaid, Yates.
Referee- O Langford