Millers return winning ways...
ROTHERHAM United bounced back to winning ways following a comfortable victory over relegation threatened NorthamptonTown.
Michael Smith’s fifth goal in Millers colours put Paul Warne’s men ahead at the interval before David Ball doubled their lead just after the hour mark.
Richie Towell put the icing on the cake with a flighted finish, near the end, as the Millers banished the memory of back-to-back defeats to earn a much-needed victory, in their push for the League One play-offs.
Following their midweek defeat the hands of Milton Keynes Dons, Warne made five changes to his starting line-up for the trip to a wintry Sixfields Stadium.
Will Vaulks was asked to don the Millers armband while taking up a role at the heart of the visitors rearguard, as Richard Wood had to settle for a substitutes berth while Josh Emmanuel returned in the right back slot.
Matt Palmer and Jon Taylor were rewarded for their impressive cameos at stadium:mk by being handed starts while Ryan Williams was asked to provide the ammunition to front pair Ball, who returned to the starting eleven, alongside Smith.
The Millers started in a positive vein and Vaulks floated a delicate centre which saw Smith got on the wrong side of his marker to bare down on goal but the assistant referee had flagged for offside – with former Rotherham ‘keeper Richard O’Donnell blocking his low effort, in any case.
The home side had faint appeals for a spot kick when Daniel Powell cut inside Emmanuel before tumbling under the challenge of the Ipswich loanee in the box but the referee waved away home protests.
Moments later, Smith plucked a ball out of the sky to exchange passes with Ball before advancing into the box with menace before Jordan Turnbull put in a timely tackle to snuff out the danger.
In the next phase of play, Williams hung up a tantalising centre which saw Semi Ajayi rise highest, at the far post, to plant a header which flew across the home goal narrowly evading the on-rushing attentions of Smith in the process.
Jon Taylor became the first to see yellow for hauling back Sam Hoskins after the former Millers loanee pounced on a miscommunication between Taylor and Palmer on halfway.
The Millers broke the deadlock on 17 minutes when Vaulks’ free-kick seemed to catch the wind as it was misjudged by the home backline and Smith showed great poise to get the ball under his spell before calmly stroking an effort past O’Donnell to send the thousand strong Millers following into delirium.
The visiting fans were almost celebrating again, minutes later, when Taylor got around the back to pick out Towell, in the box, and the Brighton loanee skipped past a home challenge before firing a rasping effort which brought a superb, reflex save from O’Donnell.
Moments later, Vaulks tried his luck from distance but his ambitious effort was blocked en-route to goal by home skipper Ash Taylor but the ball fell kindly for Smith, who hooked a shot across the home goalmouth.
The Millers were piling on the pressure and Williams dug out a cross which saw Ball show fleet of foot to work a yard of space on Taylor before firing goalwards but O’Donnell stood up tall to block his drilled effort before Towell volleyed wide from a promising position.
In a rare foray for the home side, Palmer was too cute on halfway and Powell raced away before being cynically felled by Ajayi and the referee had little option but to brandish a yellow card to the Millers centre-half.
Half-time- NorthamptonTown 0 Rotherham United 1
Following the break, Rotherham had the first sight of goal when Towell’s clip forward was controlled smartly by Smith to present Ball – with the chance to shoot and the ex-Fleetwood striker fired a low effort, from just outside the box, which had O’Donnell at full stretch to keep the ball out.
Moments later, Millers’ keeper Marek Rodak was called into action for the first time when Hildeberto Pereira latched onto a weak clearance to drill a low effort which forced the Slovakian stopper into a smothered save before Taylor pounced on hesitation from Turnbull, at the other end, to fire a low effort which was blocked by the legs of O’Donnell.
Just before the hour mark, Ajayi was fortunate to escape further sanction following a foul on halfway before Joe Mattock joined him in the book for a late lunge on sub Gboly Ariyibi, who had just joined the fray.
However, the Millers took a firm grip on the game when a cross from the right found its way to Williams, who weighed up his options to pick out Ball, who struck an effort with the inside of his boot and despite O’Donnell getting a hand to his effort, the ball floated into the heart of the home goal.
Despite the Millers being on top, Mattock became to the next to tread the tightrope following a rash tackle on Brendan Moloney near the touchline, but after the referee decided to take no further action, Warne took Mattock out of the firing line by asking substitute Michael Ihiekwe to deputise in the left-back slot.
Moments later, Rodak was well-placed to diffuse Taylor’s clipped effort, from just outside the box, before sub Anthony Forde almost made an immediate impact from the bench, when he took Williams’ cross in his stride before curling a left-footed effort from distance which had O’Donnell nervously scurrying backwards, as it hit the top of the home net.
Home frustration boiled over when sub Kevin Van Veen became the latest to incur the wrath of the referee for a late foul on Towell to earn a yellow card before Rotherham put the gloss on a polished performance with a third goal when Smith got around the back to find Forde, who picked out the on-rushing Towell, who kept his nerve to scoop the ball into the corner of the home goal giving an off-balance O’Donnell no chance.
Full-time- NorthamptonTown 0 Rotherham United 3
Teams:- Northampton- O’Donnell, Moloney, A Taylor, Powell, Hoskins (Ariyibi 58), O’Toole (Van Veen 70), Pereira, Grimes, Turnbull, Bunney, Luckassen (Mathis 80). Unused- Cornell, Barnett, McWilliams, Facey.
Rotherham-Rodak, Emmanuel, Mattock (Ihiekwe 66), Vaulks, Ajayi, Palmer, Ball (Newell 84), J Taylor (Forde 66), Towell, Williams, Smith. Unused- Wood, Price, Yates, Lavery.
Refere- B. Toner
Attendance- 5882 (1129)