Millers prevail as Boxing Day victo
EARLY strikes from David Ball and Lee Frecklington paved the way for Rotherham United’s third victory in four games at the expense of struggling Bury.
Paul Warne’s men were quick out of the blocks at Gigg Lane thanks to the double salvo and they crowned a polished performance over the Pennines when Will Vaulks struck a fantastic third, in front of the large, vocal Millers travelling contingent behind the goal, late in the game.
Following their hard-fought victory over Milton Keynes Dons last time out, Millers boss Warne kept faith with his starting line-up for the Boxing Day visit over a frozen M62.
Warne was boosted by the return of top-scorer Kieffer Moore and Richard Wood, who were both available following suspension, and were handed substitutes berths while there were a couple of familiar faces on the Shakers bench, in the shape of ex-Millers’ Chris Maguire and Joe Skarz.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Josh Laurent dwelt in possession and with Frecklington getting in a timely boot, Anthony Forde delivered the first centre which was diverted by Greg Leigh into path of Jerry Yates, who looked to cross at the second time of asking, but his ball was also snuffed out.
However, Rotherham continued to press and they opened the scoring on five minutes when Ryan Williams dug out a centre which was only half-cleared by a retreating home defender and Ball got the ball from under his feet, to clip a calm, composed left-footed effort into the bottom corner of the home goal - with ‘keeper Leonardo Fasan flat-footed.
In Bury’s first chance of note, Nicky Ajose flashed a low effort across the Rotherham goalmouth before Stephen Dawson became the first to see yellow for a hefty challenge on Ball.
The Millers were buoyed by the opener and it was no surprise when they doubled their lead on ten minutes when the visitors forced a corner.
Forde delivered an inviting centre and Frecklington emerged from the ruck of bodies in the danger area to power a downward header, from point-blank range, which flashed past the ‘keeper and the home defenders stationed on the line.
The Millers were going for the kill and Yates had a shot blocked en-route to goal by a home defender and Williams latched onto the loose ball to fizz a low effort, from just outside the box, which had Fasan, at full stretch, to keep the ball out before Richie Towell flashed a right-footed volley harmlessly wide of the home goal, in the next phase of play.
The hosts were visibly rattled by the double setback until Tom Aldred headed narrowly wide after winning an aerial duel with Semi Ajayi before a fine-flowing move from the visitors almost put Yates, in the clear, but Frecklington’s headed assist was snuffed out by Fasan.
Minutes later, the home fans were baying for blood following Williams’ late challenge on Phil Edwards but the referee deemed a yellow-card was sufficient for the apologetic Australian.
Just past the half hour mark, the Millers were indebted to Towell for a superb sliding challenge on Rohan Ince before Ajayi was inches away from connecting to another delicious Forde cross, at the other end.
In the last action of the half, Bury had a half-chance when Jay O’Shea planted an inviting free kick which was met by the head of Ince but he could not control his header, as it fizzed well wide of the target.
Half-time- Bury 0 Rotherham United 2
Following the break, Rotherham were dismayed when the play was pulled back after Will Vaulks initially put Williams in the clear, before being upended by Laurent, who earned a yellow-card in the process.
Some lackadaisical play from the Millers saw O’Shea present Leigh with the opportunity to fire a dangerous cross into the visitors’ box but Marek Rodak was well-stationed, at his near post, to snuff out the danger before good work by Dawson saw O’Shea work his way into a shooting position to fire a daisycutter which whistled past the away upright.
O’Shea was proving a handful for the Millers and the ex-Chesterfield midfielder took advantage of a short corner to fire a dangerous cross-cum-shot which fizzed past the visitors upright before Vaulks put his body on the line to block Ince’s snap shot, minutes later.
In a rare Rotherham foray, Frecklington spooned a volley over following good work by sub Joe Newell and Forde in the build-up before Ajayi had to be on his toes to divert Ajose’s bobbling cross to safety, at the other end.
With time running out for the hosts, Major injected pace into a Bury move before firing a fierce effort which had Rodak nervously scrambling across goal, as it shaved the upright before Leigh fired over from a promising position, in the next home attack.
With Bury running out of steam, the Millers put the icing on the cake on a polished performance with a third goal when Emmanuel’s cross was half-cleared into the path of Vaulks, who reverting to his midfield position, shrugged off the attentions of Ince to unleash a fantastic effort from 20 yards, which may have deceived Fasan in the air as it flew into the roof of the home net.
In the dying minutes, Ajose forced Rodak into a superb, reflex save following confusion between Emmanuel and Ajayi before Ajayi came close to adding a fourth, in stoppage time – with a bundled effort from Newell’s cross but it was diverted over the bar.
Full-time- Bury 0 Rotherham United 3
Teams:- Bury- Fasan, Leigh, Dawson (Bunn 71), Mayor, Ajose, Edwards, Aldred, Laurent, Whitmore, O’Shea, Ince. Unused- Tutte, Maguire, J Williams, Reilly, Skarz, Moloney.
Rotherham- Rodak, Emmanuel, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Forde, Frecklington, Ball, Towell (Wood 70), Yates (Moore 78), R Williams (Newell 59). Unused- O’Donnell, Clarke-Harris, Ihiekwe, Cummings.
Referee- A Backhouse
Attendance- 4630 (1452)