Millers pip Portsmouth at the last...
JOE Mattock was the Rotherham United hero with a last-gasp header to give Rotherham United a much deserved victory over fellow play-off chasers Portsmouth.
In a keenly contested first-half, Portsmouth arguably edged the proceedings at the AESSEAL New York Stadium but Rotherham looked a transformed outfit after the break and although they were denied time after time by some resolute last-ditch defending by the south coast outfit, Portsmouth’s resistance was finally broken when Mattock headed home from close range from sub Michael Smith’s cross.
Following their hard fought draw with Oldham Athletic last time out, Millers gaffer Paul Warne kept faith with his starting line-up as David Ball and Jerry Yates were once again asked to lead the Millers attack.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Anthony Forde floated a free-kick into the box which was only half-cleared by a retreating defender into the path of Will Vaulks, whose snap shot was blocked by Dion Donohue.
Minutes later, Ben Close’s defensive splitting pass put Matty Kennedy in the clear down the left flank and the Pompey winger planted a centre across the face of the box and Kal Naismith struck an instinctive volley which whistled narrowly wide of the target.
In the next visitors’ attack, Jamal Lowe showed fleet of foot to race away from his marker to drill an effort which stung the palms of Marek Rodak before Naismith flighted a corner which saw Brett Pitman rise highest to plant a header, who was diverted away from goal by a well-stationed home defender.
Just past the quarter hour, Semi Ajayi’s mis-hit clearance fell kindly for Kennedy, but he scuffed his effort harmlessly wide with his weaker right-foot before Vaulks’ snap volley, at the other end, failed to trouble the Pompey goal after Christian Burgess’ headed clearance fell invitingly into his path.
The visitors squandered an opportunity to open the scoring when Joe Mattock initially snuffed out the danger on the cover but Lowe stripped him of possession before he could clear to clip a cross which looked inch-perfect for Pitman, just yards out, but his header lacked power as it was straight down the throat of Rodak, who gratefully plucked it out of the sky.
At the other end, Rotherham came within a coat of paint of making the breakthrough themselves as Vaulks and Ryan Williams combined superbly to present Ball, with the opportunity to work a shooting position and he duly obliged to curl a delightful effort which took a slight deflection off a visitors defender, as it beat the outstretched hand of Luke McGee to hit the top of the Pompey net.
Just past the half hour mark, Josh Emmanuel received the first booking of the game before Donohue let fly from long range but Vaulks’ sliding block took the sting out of the shot as it flew into the grateful hands of Rodak.
With half-time approaching, Yates tried his luck from distance but his ambitious effort threatened the visiting faithful behind the goal rather than the visitors net.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 Portsmouth 0
The Millers were quick out of the blocks following the break and Mattock’s hanging cross was met by the volley of Richie Towell but McGee snuffed out the danger with Yates lurking for a tap-in before Forde swung a delightful corner which was met by the head of Vaulks, whose effort was blocked by the masse of bodies in the six-yard box before the ex-Falkirk midfielder pounced on the rebound but Nathan Thompson threw his body, in the way of his shot to keep the ball out.
Moments later, another Forde corner caused havoc in the Pompey box but in the ensuing melee Richard Wood fluffed his lines when he screwed a point-blank effort wide before Wood, Ajayi and latterly Mattock were denied in a goalmouth scramble, again in the aftermath of another Forde set-piece.
Forde was proving the architect of Rotherham’s attacking intentions and the Irishman’s bobbling cross was superbly anticipated by Ball, who nipped in front of his marker, to hook an effort narrowly over the Pompey goal before Kennedy, in a rare visitors foray, latched onto Rodak’s tame clearance to embark on a mazy run, which bisected the home rearguard and ended with a rasping drive which flew over the Millers bar.
With the game in the balance, Warne made a double substitution with Joe Newell and Michael Smith, on his home debut, introduced into the fray and it almost paid dividends when the former Portsmouth forward had a shot blocked before he looped a header, in the next phase of play, which narrowly evaded the attentions of Ball, at the far post.
Smith was in the thick of the action and he ghosted from the touchline to drill a shot which was blocked at close quarters before Mattock’s dangerous centre was hacked over by a retreating defender.
Minutes later, Smith’s low effort was diverted to safety by Matt Clarke before Forde tracked back almost the full length of the pitch to halt a Pompey counter-attack with a superb sliding challenge.
With the tempo raised, Ajayi looked to smash home following the breakdown of a home corner but he could not thread his effort through the ruck of bodies in the box before Lowe threatened a smash-and-grab, in the dying minutes – with a powerful drive which whistled narrowly over the home crossbar.
In the last noteworthy action of the game, Vaulks latched onto the scraps before being urged to shoot by the home faithful but he failed to trouble McGee, who watched his long range effort sail harmlessly wide before Rotherham grabbed the winner in the most dramatic of circumstances when Newell probed around the visitors box and Smith kept his nerve to float a superb centre to the far stick where Mattock ghosted in almost unnoticed to head home from close range giving McGee no chance and send the AESSEAL New York Stadium faithful into ecstasy.
Full-time- Rotherham United 1 Portsmouth 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Emmanuel, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood, Forde (Taylor 82), Ball, Towell, Yates (Smith 65), Williams (Newell 65). Unused- Price, Clarke-Harris, Ihiekwe, Cummings.
Portsmouth- McGee, Clarke, Burgess, Pitman (Hawkins 66), Kennedy, Donohue, Lowe, Thompson, Naismith, Deslandes (Ronan 67), Close. Unused- Bass, Chaplin, Bennett, May, Widdrington.
Referee- R Jones
Attendance- 9129 (1471)