Millers slip to heavy home defeat....
ROTHERHAM United slipped to just their second Championship home defeat of the season, at the hands of an impressive-looking West Bromwich Albion outfit, following a first-half blitz from the West Midlanders.
The Albion raced into a two-goal lead within twenty minutes, thanks to Dwight Gayle’s low free-kick and Harvey Barnes’ drilled effort.
Gayle, soon added his second, with a point-blank header, just shy of the break, before the former Newcastle striker rubbed salt into Millers wounds when he notched his hat-trick with a tap-in, in front of the large travelling contingent.
Following the last-gasp draw with Reading last time out, Millers boss Paul Warne reshuffled his pack, by making three changes to his starting line-up for Albion’s first ever visit to the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
Clark Robertson returned to the heart of Rotherham’s defence alongside Semi Ajayi while Warne freshened up his midfield options – with the inclusion of Ryan Manning and Joe Newell, at the expense of Jon Taylor and Ryan Williams.
The visitors had the first shot of anger in the early seconds when Ajayi’s weak clearance presented Matt Phillips to strike from distance but his rasping effort struck Jay Rodriguez en-route to goal – with his fellow striker, in an offside position.
The Millers failed to heed the warning when Albion took the lead on six minutes when a slick visitors’ move ended when Gayle was hauled down by Robertson, in an inviting position on the edge of the box.
The former Newcastle exacted retribution from the resultant free-kick when he cleverly drilled the ball low, and with the Rotherham wall jumping in tandem, the ball evaded their attentions to find the corner of the net – with ‘keeper Marek Rodak rooted to the spot, in the other half of his goal.
Warne’s side responded superbly to the early setback and they came within a whisker of levelling matters on 12 minutes when a short corner caught the visitors napping and Manning weighed up his options before striking a fierce left-footed effort which smashed against the foot of the upright but the ball fell kindly for Ajayi, who swiped the rebound towards goal, but fortunately for the visitors’, Craig Dawson was well-stationed on his own line to hack clear.
Just before the quarter hour, Manning, once again, tried his luck with a speculative effort, which failed to trouble Sam Johnstone, in the Albion goal before Darren Moore’s team took a stranglehold on the game when they doubled their lead on 20 minutes.
A poor cross-field pass from Ajayi gifted WBA possession and they punished the Millers to the full when Harvey Barnes ghosted in from the left flank to give Rodriguez the opportunity to strike and although the Albion frontman was denied by the woodwork, Rodak was unable get his hands on the rebound and Barnes pounced to drill the ball into the unguarded net.
The Millers rallied strongly and Zak Vyner clipped a cross which was met by the head of Smith but Johnstone plucked his header out of the sky before Manning’s snap shot was deflected behind by Rodriguez.
The home side were looking for a foothold in the clash and Manning, once again, decided to shoot on sight – with his long-range effort blazing wide before Smith got the better of Ahmed Hegazi to race into the box but the Millers lone frontman dragged his cross-cum-shot across the face of goal.
Just before the half-hour mark, the evergreen Gareth Barry became the first to see yellow for a clumsy foul on Newell before Johnstone soon joined him in the book for time-wasting following long deliberations on the taking of a goal-kick.
Minutes later, fine one-touch play from Richie Towell and Smith paved the way for Joe Mattock to skip down the touchline before delivering an inviting centre which was headed to safety by Dawson before Ajayi nodded wide, from Newell’s free-kick.
In the last action of the half, Mattock became the latest to incur the wrath of the referee for a rash tackle on Phillips near the by-line and the moment proved crucial when Albion gave the Millers a mountain to climb at the interval, by adding a third goal, from the resultant free-kick, on the stroke of half-time.
The Scotland international dusted himself down to take the free-kick and his whipped centre into the danger area saw Gayle emerge from the ruck of home bodies in the box to head into the corner of the Rotherham net from close range.
Half-time- Rotherham United 0 West Bromwich Albion 3
Following a slow start to the second half by both teams, WBA effectively sealed the deal on 54 minutes when Gayle claimed the match ball following a goalkeeping error from Rodak.
There looked little danger for the Millers when Gayle twisted and turned in the box to no avail before squeezing out a shot which deflected away from goal but Rodak, in an attempt to prevent a corner, looked to smother the ball but it squirmed out of Slovakian’s grasp and Gayle was on-hand to shoot home into the empty net.
The Millers stuck to the task gamely and Vyner’s run ended with a wayward shot from distance before Johnstone was called into action to deny Smith, who rose highest from Anthony Forde’s hanging cross, to power a header which forced the Albion stopper into a fine, reflex save.
The home side had faint appeals for a spot kick when Towell appeared to have been bundled over in the box, but the referee waved them away before the Irishman fluffed his lines with a ballooned effort, from a good position, which ended up in the home faithful behind the goal.
Minutes later, Newell swung over a delicious free-kick which was inches away from the Rotherham runners, as it fizzed narrowly wide of the target before the Millers were denied a consolation goal when Robertson towered above his marker at the far post to meet Forde’s corner with a looping header but Livermore showed his defensive instincts to head clear from underneath his own crossbar.
The Millers refused to throw in the towel and Manning drilled an effort wide, Smith had a header cleared by a backtracking defender before Ajayi became the next to threaten the Albion goal with a bullet header, which flew harmlessly wide of the target.
The home side’s miserable afternoon, was summed up with fifteen minutes to go, when Towell had his heels clipped in the box by Tosin Adarabioyo and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. However, Manning, despite wrongfooting Johnstone, was unable to convert, as his left-footed effort from 12 yards smashed against the post before being scrambled to safety.
In the latter stages of the game, Albion came close to a fifth goal when firstly Kieran Gibbs raced through a static home defence to drill an effort, from an acute angle, which shaved the far post before the lively Barnes, twice threatened the home goal – with a rasping effort which was inches away before Rodak denied the Albion playmaker with a fine save.
Full-time- Rotherham United 0 West Bromwich Albion 4
Rotherham United 0
West Bromwich Albion 4
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner, Mattock (Williams 65), Vaulks, Ajayi, Forde, Towell, Robertson, Manning, Newell (Taylor 72), Smith (Proctor 80). Unused- Price, Wood, Palmer, Wiles
WBA- Johnstone, Gibbs, Livermore, Phillips (Morrison 78), Barnes, Gayle (Robson-Kanu 82), Barry (Brunt 58), Rodriguez, Adarabioyo, Dawson, Hegazi. Unused- Myhill, Sako, Mears, Harper
Referee- T Harrington
Attendance- 10593 (2597)