Millers lose Roses clash
ROTHERHAM United returned over the Pennines empty-handed following a two-goal defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers.
Goals from Marcus Antonsson and sub Harry Chapman either side of the interval saw the home side run out comfortable victors.
Following their handsome victory over Oldham Athletic in their last outing, Millers chief Paul Warne made two changes to his starting line-up for the trip to Ewood Park.
Joe Newell and Anthony Forde were rewarded for their impressive substitute cameos against the Latics by being recalled to the Millers starting line-up with Jon Taylor ruled out because of injury while Richie Towell had to settle for a place on the visitors bench.
The Millers were given a pre-match boost when League One’s leading goalscorer Kieffer Moore shrugged off a tight groin to line up for Warne’s men while former Rotherham favourite Richie Smallwood was named in the Rovers starting line-up.
The hosts were quick out the blocks and they came within a whisker of an early opener when Smallwood’s clipped ball forward paved the way for Elliott Bennett to whip a superb centre which saw Dominic Samuel loop a header which smashed against the upright and with the Millers defence still at sixes and sevens, the ball fell invitingly for the onrushing Antonsson, who flashed his follow-up wide despite having the goal at his mercy.
Following an edgy opening by the visitors, Warne’s side gradually got a foothold in the clash and Newell smartly worked a crossing position and with Blackburn failing to clear the danger, Forde showed excellent technique to flash a fierce volley from distance which had home ‘keeper David Raya scrambling across goal as it whistled narrowly wide of the target.
Minutes later, Paul Downing’s ball over the top took Ben Purrington out of the game as Bennett got to the by line to fire a tantalising centre to the far post which skipped off the Ewood Park surface as Antonsson attempted to scuff the ball home from close range but Rodak showed good reflexes at his near post to keep the ball out before Newell was stripped of possession on halfway and Bradley Dack strode clear to give Samuel, a glimpse of goal, and the home striker drilled a low effort which beat the outstretched hand of Marek Rodak before cannoning against the foot of the post, before being diverted to safety- to the Millers relief.
Moments later, Warne was forced to reshuffle his pack as Purrington was left grounded, with what appeared to be a muscle strain, and Joe Mattock was sent into action as a direct replacement.
In a rare Millers foray, Ryan Williams was unceremoniously dumped to the floor by Downing, who earned a yellow in the process, but Forde failed to exact retribution from the resultant free-kick as his effort from the edge of the box flew into the home fans behind the goal.
At the other end, Darren Potter made an uncharacteristic mistake with an under hit backpass and Samuel got to the ball first to round Rodak but the Slovakian showed fleet of foot to snuff out the danger at the near post but Rotherham’s relief was only temporary as Rovers made the breakthrough from the resultant corner.
Charlie Mulgrew fired in an inviting centre to the near post and with the Millers rearguard caught napping, Antonsson was the quickest to react to glance the ball home from close range despite the attentions of Rodak and a Millers defender stationed on the upright.
The Millers were looking to stem the Rovers tide when Samuel combined superbly with Dack but Rodak was quick out off his line to smother the danger before the Rovers duo linked up, in the home side’s next attack, when Dack was inches away from tucking home Samuel’s delicious centre.
The visitors were indebted to the Fulham loanee for keeping them in the game at the interval when he superbly tipped Corry Evans’ rasping effort over the bar before the lively Bennett flashed a shot from the edge of the box narrowly over the Millers upright.
Rotherham’s first-half misery was summed up after the whistle when Rodak was yellow-carded for protests made to the referee.
Half-time- Blackburn Rovers 1 Rotherham United 0
The hosts started the second half as they finished the first when Dack’s slide-rule pass paved the way for Antonsson to burst into the Millers box to play a superb centre across goal which saw Samuel deftly flick the ball towards goal but fortunately for the Millers, his effort narrowly cleared the crossbar.
Moments later, Moore got the better of a tussle with Derrick Williams to try his luck from distance but the ball sliced off his right boot as it failed to trouble Raya in the home goal before Richard Wood stuck out a timely leg to prevent Dack from shooting goalwards, at the other end.
The Millers had a sight of goal when Forde’s neat header saw Vaulks hook a ball into the box where an off-balance Moore, was unable to direct his header goalwards before Mulgrew was on-hand to block Forde’s cross-cum-shot, moments later.
The visitors were visibly growing in confidence and after Forde and Williams were unable to get their shots away in the box, Mattock’s rasping effort from distance forced Raya into a parried save before Newell tried his luck from distance but his effort was deflected behind.
Moments later, Vaulks and Williams caught Rovers napping from a quick corner and the latter delivered a delightful centre which saw skipper Lee Frecklington ghost in at the far post to volley goalwards but Raya was well-stationed at his near post to tip the ball around the post.
From the resultant corner, Newell floated an inviting centre which saw Wood emerge from the ruck of bodies in the box to power home a towering header from close range before celebrating infront of the jubilant Rotherham faithful, but their cheers soon turned to jeers as the referee chalked off the goal for an infringement in the build-up.
Moments later, Evans saw yellow for illegally halting a Millers attack before sub Chapman almost made an immediate impression with a mazy run into the box but his shot was blocked by Rodak at his near post.
The Millers had a let off when Michael Ihiekwe’s errant pass saw Blackburn clip the ball over the top where Antonsson raced clear to bear down on the Millers goal but he blazed over with just Rodak to beat before Mattock’s sky-high cross saw Moore win an aerial duel with Raya, but he was unable to direct his header goalwards, at the other end.
Moments later, Frecklington received a yellow-card for a clumsy foul on Bennett before Blackburn sealed the deal with six minutes remaining when Chapman pounced on a loose ball to sting the palms of Rodak with a shot from a tight angle but the ball fell invitingly back into the path of the Sheffield United loanee, who made no mistake with the rebound, as he fired high into the roof of the Millers net.
The home side threatened a third when Antonsson’s low effort whistled narrowly past the Millers goal before Frecklington had a volley deflected wide.
Rotherham frustration was summed up when Moore was yellow-carded for a foul before sub Peter Whittingham almost added a third in the dying seconds, but he dragged his low effort past the far post.
Full-time- Blackburn Rovers 2 Rotherham United 0
Blackburn Rovers 2
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Blackburn- Raya, Williams, Smallwood, Samuel (Hart 79), Mulgrew, Caddis, Antonsson, Dack (Chapman 70), Downing, Evans (Whittingham 74), Bennett. Unused- Leutwiler, Nyambe, Graham, Ward.
Rotherham- Rodak, Vaulks, Wood, Forde (Towell 65), Frecklington, Potter, Purrington (Mattock 20), Ihiekwe, Newell (Yates 81), Williams, Moore. Unused- O’Donnell, Ajayi, Clarke-Harris, Cummings.
Referee- M Heywood
Attendance- 10228 (515)