Millers secure Play-off place with win over Bristol Rovers.,
ROTHERHAM United secured their berth in the League One play-offs following a 2-0 victory over Bristol Rovers, thanks to goals either side of the interval from Michael Smith and sub Caolan Lavery.
Smith gave the Millers the perfect start with a superb run and finish and with little to separate the teams for most of the AESSEAL New York Stadium clash, Lavery eased home nerves with a smart finish from close range.
Following their hard-fought victory over Gillingham in midweek, Millers chief Paul Warne made just one change to his starting line-up for the visit of the Pirates.
Joe Newell shrugged off injury to take his place on the left-hand side of midfield, at the expense of Ryan Williams, who had to settle for a substitutes berth.
The visitors started in a positive vein and Ellis Harrison had a shot blocked on the edge of the box before Michael Ihiekwe had to stick out a timely leg to prevent Tom Nichols from darting towards goal.
Moments later, Josh Emmanuel had to be on his toes to divert Marc Bola’s cross to safety before Rotherham grabbed the lead on nine minutes – with their first foray of note, arguably against the run of play.
There looked little danger on halfway but James Clarke dallied on the ball and Smith robbed him of possession before showing the visitors’ right-back a clean pair of heels, as he raced towards the Rovers goal and the Millers frontman kept his nerve to curl a delightful effort from the edge of the box which whistled past the attentions of Sam Slocombe to nestle in the far corner of the goal.
The goal sprang Rotherham into action and a threaded move on the edge of the box paved the way for Jon Taylor to find Will Vaulks, on the edge of the box, and the ex-Falkirk midfielder got the ball from under his feet to fire goalwards, but the ball took a wicked deflection off a retreating defender to loop narrowly over the bar.
From the resultant corner, Matt Palmer executed a training ground move to pull the ball back into the path of Vaulks, who off-balance, could only fire over with his weaker left-boot before Vaulks turned creator with an incisive cross which almost fell kindly for Newell, but the Millers playmaker was unable to get the ball under his spell, as the chance was lost.
The visitors gradually regained their composure and Byron Moore got the better of Ben Purrington to dig out a cross to the far post and although Kyle Bennett controlled smartly to work a shooting position, he fluffed his lines when he clipped an effort harmlessly over the bar.
Just before the half hour mark, Taylor won the battle of wills with Bennett to find Smith, who turned smartly before spotting Richie Towell, in an inviting position, on the edge of the box, but the Brighton loanee failed to make a clean connection with his shot, as he dragged his effort harmlessly wide of the target.
At the other end, Nichols tried his luck from distance but Marek Rodak got his body behind his shot before Ihiekwe put his body on the line to block Bennett’s goalbound effort en-route to the Millers goal.
Minutes later, Newell latched onto Smith’s flick-on to cut inside and fire a left-footed effort, from the edge of the box, which skimmed off the pristine AESSEAL New York Stadium surface, to smash into the side netting.
Moments later, Harrison rose highest to meet Moore’s incisive centre but Rodak plucked his towering header out of the sky before Taylor was almost the lucky beneficiary of a hopeful punt into the box, at the other end, but Tony Craig scrambled the ball clear before he could get his shot away.
Half-time- Rotherham United 1 Bristol Rovers 0
Following the break, the Millers had the first sight of goal when good work from Taylor saw Smith acrobatically hook the ball into the path of Towell, who toe-poked an effort narrowly over the visitors bar before the home side had strong appeals for a spot-kick when Newell burst into the box before appearing to be bundled over by Rovers skipper Tom Lockyer but the referee waved away home protests.
Moments later, Ollie Clarke showed quick feet before blasting over from long-range before Moore was the quickest to react to a loose ball to race into the Rotherham box and despite splitting open the home defence, Rodak was quick off his line to smother his low effort, at point-blank range.
Just before the hour mark, Bennett’s long range strike was deflected over by Ihiekwe before Harrison made something out of nothing to race hard at the Rotherham defence to screw a shot harmlessly wide of the target.
Minutes later, sub Dom Telford headed over, with his first touch, following Bola’s dangerous cross before Newell got to the byline to dig out a cross which was inch-perfect for the near-post run of sub Ryan Williams and the Australian executed a deft flick towards goal, from close range, but Slocombe correctly guessed his intentions to snuff out the danger.
Harrison became the first to see yellow following a rugged challenge on Wood before sub Caolan Lavery embarked on a powerful run which ended when his shot was blocked on the edge of the box by a retreating defender.
With the game in the balance, Ollie Clarke fired an ambitious effort which failed to trouble Rodak in the home goal before Williams squandered an opportunity when he elected to pass rather than shoot, despite having the goal at his mercy.
The visitors missed a chance to level matters when Slocombe’s long punt forward saw neither Wood or Ihiekwe take charge as Rory Gaffney headed into the path of Bennett, who had to evade the attentions of Emmanuel to scuff the ball towards goal but Rodak, once again, kept his nerve to keep the ball out with his feet.
The moment proved crucial when Rotherham effectively sealed the deal with almost 90 minutes on the clock when Ben Purrington’s slide-rule pass paved the way for Newell to fire a superb centre across the face of goal and Lavery got on the wrong side of his marker, to caress the ball into the bottom corner of the net, from close range.
Full-time- Rotherham United 2 Bristol Rovers 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Emmanuel, Vaulks, Wood, Palmer (Ajayi 76), Taylor (Williams 65), Towell (Lavery 59), Purrington, Ihiekwe, Newell, Smith. Unused- Price, Forde, Ball, Cummings.
Bristol Rovers- Slocombe, Lockyer, O Clarke, Harrison (Gaffney 78), Nichols (Telford 69), Lines, J Clarke, Moore (Mensah 68), Bola, Craig, Bennett. Unused- Smith, Brown, Broadbent, Russe.
Referee- A Haines
Attendance- 8579 (608)