REPORT | Newcastle United 4 v 0 Rotherham
RAFA Benitez’s Newcastle United returned to the top of the Championship table after defeating Rotherham United 4-0, in the Millers’ first league visit to St James’ Park since 1983.
The Millers were very much in the game in the first half as Jerry Yates had a point-blank effort saved by Karl Darlow before Daryl Murphy’s well-taken strike put the home side ahead on the stroke of half-time.
Matt Ritchie doubled the Toon’s lead just minutes into the second half before further goals from Ayoze Perez and Ritchie, with his second of the afternoon, put the gloss on a polished home performance.
Following their eye-catching victory over Norwich City last time out, the Millers made three changes to their starting line-up for the visit to the north east.
Richard O’Donnell was thrown immediately into the fray after putting put pen to paper on a deal with the Millers from Bristol City just days ago while Tunisian international Aïmen Belaïd was handed a recall at the heart of the visitors’ rearguard as Kirk Broadfoot was absent because of a back problem.
Joe Newell was named in the initial Millers line-up but the ex-Peterborough midfielder suffered an injury in the warm-up and he had to be replaced by Jon Taylor, who was promoted from the substitutes bench.
Youngster Yates was asked to ply a lone furrow upfront for the visitors following his goalscoring league debut against the Canaries as Millers top-scorer Danny Ward, who was suffering with a back complaint, had to settle for a place on the bench.
The Millers had an early scare when Issac Hayden’s attempted cross appeared to strike the arm of Belaïd in the box and the home fans were baying for a spot kick but the referee waved away home protests.
Moments later, Richard Wood was well positioned to snuff out Deandre Yedlin’s dangerous centre before Hayden was crowded out by a ruck of Millers bodies on the edge of the box before he could get his shot away.
Minutes later, home skipper Jamaal Lascelles advanced with menace before trying his luck from distance but his low effort failed to trouble O’Donnell’s goal before Jonjo Shelvey worked a yard of space on Anthony Forde to deliver an inviting centre which saw Murphy ghost away from his marker in the six-yard box but the Republic of Ireland international was unable to control his header as it cleared the Millers’ crossbar.
In their first Millers foray of note, the home side failed to deal with Richie Smallwood’s floated free-kick and Will Vaulks pounced on the loose ball to drive into the home box before Yates had a snap shot blocked by a retreating defender.
In the aftermath of the move, Taylor embarked on a mazy run which saw him race into the box but his cross was deflected by Yedlin and the ball looped onto the top of the crossbar with Darlow in close attendance to palm the ball over.
Just past the quarter hour, Perez latched onto a threaded ball forward to race towards goal and the home front-man feigned to cross before trying to catch O’Donnell out at his near post but the Rotherham stopper blocked his effort with his legs before Tom Adeyemi stuck out a timely leg to cut out Shelvey’s tantalising cross, in the next phase of play.
Minutes later, Perez once again got on wrong side of Rotherham rearguard to race away but he blasted narrowly over the bar from a promising position on the edge of the box.
Just before the half-hour mark, Vaulks’ neat lay-off presented Forde with the opportunity to drive hard at the home defence and the ex-Walsall winger unleashed a rasping effort from distance which took a slight deflection of a home defender as it fizzed narrowly wide of the upright before Hayden had a shot blocked following good work by Murphy at the other end.
Despite the home side controlling the majority of possession and field position, the Millers came within a whisker of the opener when Darlow misjudged his take on the edge of the box as he lost control of the ball and Forde pounced to look a certain scorer, but the ball got stuck under his feet as the home ‘keeper appeared to pull him back before Yedlin got a timely tackle to prevent him shooting goalwards but the ball fell kindly for Yates, who showed composure to jink away from the attentions of home defenders but Darlow redeemed himself for his initial error by superbly throwing his body in the way of the youngster’s goalbound shot.
With half-time approaching, Yoan Gouffran’s slide-rule pass saw Shelvey turn on a sixpence before curling a left-footed effort which whizzed narrowly over the home bar before Murphy came within inches of connecting with Matt Ritchie’s drilled centre, in the next home attack of note.
In the last action of the half, the home side took the lead after Smallwood became the first to see yellow for a late tackle on Hayden on halfway.
From the resultant free-kick, Yedlin latched onto Shelvey’s long punt upfield to volley across the face of goal where Murphy held off the attentions of Belaïd before turning superbly to fire a left-footed effort which fizzed past the outstretched hand of O’Donnell to find the heart of the visitors goal.
Half-time- Newcastle United 1 Rotherham United 0
The home side started the second half as they finished the first as they took a stranglehold on the game by doubling their advantage in the first meaningful action of the half.
Perez injected pace into a home move to release Gouffran, who cut inside two defenders to drill a low effort from the edge of the box which was arrowing into the bottom corner of the goal until O’Donnell’s intervention but his parried save rolled tantalisingly into the path of Ritchie, who had the simple task of tapping home into the unguarded net.
The Millers responded superbly to the double setback and Vaulks’ pass saw Forde cut inside with menace before drilling a low effort which was deflected behind by Ciaran Clark before Forde and Smallwood combined superbly, minutes later, as the former curled a centre which was only half-cleared into the path of Belaïd, who fired an effort which stung the palms of Darlow in the home goal.
However, it proved a false dawn for the Millers as Newcastle effectively sealed the deal with a third goal just before the hour mark.
An incisive ball into the right hand channel saw Yedlin show the Rotherham defence a clean pair of heels as he sped away down the flank and although the American full-back looked to have ran out of room, he superbly squeezed out a cross and Perez showed fleet of foot to nip infront of his marker to direct a powerful point-blank header past O’Donnell.
The home side were going for the kill and Shelvey had a snap shot deflected over before Clark headed over the bar from the resultant corner.
Clark was in the thick of the action and the home centre-half threaded a low shot through a ruck of bodies after Rotherham failed to clear their lines but the ball dribbled harmlessly wide of the target.
Moments later, sub Sammy Ameobi’s cross found Ritchie at the far post but the Scotland international bizarrely headed wide with the goal at his mercy before Perez pounced on his wayward effort to fire a snap effort which O’Donnell saved at his near post.
In a rare attack by the Millers, sub Ward dragged a deflected effort narrowly wide of the home goal before the home side rubbed salt into Millers’ wounds with a fourth goal with 13 minutes remaining.
There looked little danger for the visitors until Shelvey picked out Ritchie with a perfectly-weighted pass and the home winger, atoned for his earlier miss, as he calmly weighed up his options before stroking an effort from the edge of the box which O’Donnell got a hand to but couldn’t keep out as it found the bottom corner of the goal.
The three-thousand plus following, who gave the Millers’ tremendous backing all afternoon, almost had something to cheer late on when Forde worked a shooting position to fire a fierce effort which Darlow was forced to parry to safety.
Full-time:- Newcastle United 4 Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Newcastle- Darlow, Clark, Dummett, Lascelles, Ritchie, Shelvey, Hayden, Perez, Gouffran (Ameobi 64), Yedlin (Sterry 81), Murphy (Lazaar 75). Unused- Hanley, Haidara, Sels, Barlaser.
Rotherham- O’Donnell, Mattock, Vaulks, Wood, Forde (Kelly 87), Fisher, Taylor (Allan 75), Adeyemi, Belaïd, Smallwood, Yates (Ward 61). Unused- Wilson, Warren, Bilboe.
Ref- J Simpson