REPORT | Fulham 2 v 1 Rotherham
JOE Newell’s first-half screamer was in vain as Fulham fought back strongly to run out 2-1 winners at Craven Cottage despite an industrious effort from the Millers.
Newell’s strike put the Millers in charge but Stefan Johansen levelled matters, just past the half-hour mark, with a well-taken effort.
After weathering a home storm either side of the interval, Rotherham resistance was finally broken when Floyd Ayite put the Cottagers ahead.
Visiting ‘keeper Lewis Price pulled off a string of saves, including a Chris Martin penalty, to keep the Millers in the game but Slavisa Jokanovic’s side held on to record victory.
Following their hard-fought victory over QPR at the weekend, the Millers made just one change to their starting line-up for the trip to West London.
Club skipper Lee Frecklington was handed a well-earned rest following his heroic performance against the Hoops, in his first outing following injury, as Will Vaulks was recalled to the visitors’ midfield with Richard Wood taking on the captain’s armband.
Backed by a loyal travelling contingent, the Millers missed a gilt-edged chance to take the lead as early as the third minute when last man Tomas Kalas slipped in possession and Izzy Brown pounced on the loose ball to race clear and despite bearing down on David Button, in the home goal, the Chelsea loanee bizarrely elected to pass to Danny Ward, who turned smartly in the box but his effort lacked power as Button snuffed out the danger.
At the other end, Vaulks was well-positioned to clear back-to-back home attacks before Sone Aluko slalomed his way into the box by leaving Aimen Belaïd grasping at thin air but the ex-Hull City winger was crowded out by retreating visiting defenders’ before he could get his shot away.
Minutes later, Belaid’s calm clearance gave Brown the opportunity to race clear and although Ryan Sessegnon appeared to be tugging the midfielder back, Brown managed to force his way into the box until Sessegnon recovered smartly with a timely tackle to prevent him shooting goalwards.
From the resultant corner, Anthony Forde’s quick thinking, in an apparent training ground move, saw Tom Adeyemi ghost away from the pack to stab towards goal but Button was on his toes to tip the ball over the bar.
However, the Millers were rewarded for the positive start with the opening goal on 19 minutes following a swift counter attack.
Good work by Adeyemi near the touchline paved the way for Brown to present Newell with a shooting opportunity and the ex-Peterborough midfielder made it count with a skimming left-footed effort from distance which kissed the top of the surface before flashing past the outstretched hand of Button to find the bottom corner of the net.
The home side responded well to the setback and Ayite waltzed in from the flank to fizz an effort which forced Price into a smart save before Darnell Fisher played a clever one-two on the edge of the box before curling an goalbound effort which Button smothered smartly, at the other end.
Minutes later, Sessegnon ghosted down the left flank to deliver a tantalising centre but Ayite failed to make a telling connection as his point-blank header failed to trouble Price’s goal
In an entertaining opening, Belaïd’s pinpoint ball over the top almost put Ward in the clear but Rotherham’s top scorer was unable to get the ball under his spell as the opportunity was lost before Fulham levelled matters just past the half hour mark.
Ryan Fredericks embarked on a superb run which had the Millers on the backfoot but Wood put his body on the line to block Martin’s snap shot but Fulham continued to press and the ball was threaded back into the danger area and Johansen kept his nerve from just outside the box as he picked his spot to drill the ball into the bottom corner of the Millers net.
Rotherham’s hopes took a further blow as the dangerous Brown had to be withdrawn after he failed to shrug off a knock and his replacement Jon Taylor had a first touch to forget as Ayite pounced on his loose pass to race into the box unchallenged but Price saved his near post effort with his legs.
The Millers were indebted to skipper Wood for a timely block on Aluko as he looked to shoot towards goal from just yards out before Aluko turned provider with a superb centre which saw Tom Cairney rise highest to power a header which Price was forced to tip over his own crossbar.
In the last action of the half, Cairney delivered a dangerous corner which was met by the head of Michael Madl but his point-blank header flashed narrowly wide of the visitors goal.
Half-time- Fulham 1 Rotherham United 1
At the start of the second half, Johansen’s mistake on halfway saw Taylor race clear before sliding a pass into the path of Ward, who fired a first-time effort which was deflected over the bar.
At the other end, Aluko worked a yard of space on Mattock before drilling a left-footed effort which was smartly smothered by Price before the Rotherham ‘keeper was called into action once again when Ayite’s pass saw Sessegnon dart forward to smash an effort which stung the palms of the visitors stopper.
However, it was only a temporary reprieve for the Millers as the Cottagers went ahead eight minutes into the half.
Sub Lucas Piazon got on the wrong side of the Rotherham rearguard to find himself in space in the box and the Chelsea loanee picked the perfect pass to find the onrushing Ayite, who calmly slid the ball into the heart of the Millers goal.
The home side came within a whisker of a third goal when sub Frecklington was harshly adjudged to have committed a foul in an inviting position and Johansen almost made the visitors pay from the resultant free-kick with a curling effort which had Price nervously scurrying across goal as it struck the outside of the upright.
Price was in the thick of the action and after Cairney’s shot looped viciously in the air, the Rotherham ‘keeper saved with his legs before the ex-Sheffield Wednesday ‘keeper kept the Millers’ hopes alive with a vital penalty save, just minutes later.
Following a ball into the box, Madl tumbled under the challenge of Belaïd and the referee pointed to the spot. However, Price came to Rotherham’s rescue when he dived correctly to his right to keep Martin’s resultant penalty out with a strong hand.
The visitors were riding their luck and Martin almost made amends for his penalty miss when he ghosted in at the far post to stab an effort which smashed against the post before falling into the grateful hands of Price before Cairney blasted over from just outside the box in the Cottagers’ next attack.
Minutes later, Aluko took aim from distance but Price was able to watch the ball clear his crossbar before Cairney’s shot from the edge of the box was straight down the throat of the Millers’ stopper.
The Millers were almost rewarded for their doggedness when Vaulks’ long throw was flicked on by Wood into the path of Frecklington, who did not get a clean strike away, under pressure from a home defender, as Button smartly gathered his effort.
In the latter minutes, Cairney again stung the palms of Price with a clever effort before Wood saw yellow for a late tackle on Johansen in the final meaningful action of the evening.
Full-time- Fulham 2 Rotherham United 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Fulham- Button, Fredericks, McDonald (Piazon 46), Cairney, Ayite, Johansen, Madl, Aluko (Parker 82), Martin, Kalas, Sessegnon. Unused- Bettinelli, Malone, Odoi, Smith, Sigurdsson.
Rotherham- Price, Mattock, Vaulks, Wood, Forde, Ward (Blackstock 60), Fisher, Newell, Adeyemi (Frecklington 60), Belaïd, Brown (Taylor 36). Unused- Bilboe, Kelly, Forster-Caskey, Ball.
Referee- S Martin.