Late penalty denies Millers....
ROTHERHAM United were denied their first away point of their Championship campaign in the cruellest of circumstances as Lewis Grabban came back to haunt his former club with a late winner.
With chances few and far between in a scrappy affair at the City Ground, Warne’s side looked set for a share of the spoils until Grabban broke Millers’ hearts with just four minutes to go after Ryan Williams was penalised for a foul on Ben Osborn in the box.
Following their narrow defeat at the hands of Aston Villa in midweek, Millers boss Paul Warne made two changes to his starting line-up for the short hop to Nottingham.
Experienced defender Billy Jones was handed his first league start in Millers colours, at the expense of Zak Vyner while long-term injury victim Jamie Proctor was asked to lead the Rotherham line for the first time since August 2017 with Michael Smith named among the substitutes.
The hosts had the first sight of goal when Ryan Manning tripped Osborn in an inviting position, just outside the box, following Semi Ajayi’s initial mistake but Grabban failed to make it count from the resultant free-kick when his tame effort smashed into the Rotherham wall.
In Rotherham’s first attack of note, Williams chased a ball into the channel but Michael Hefele was around on the cover to clear out the danger before Richie Towell was fortunate to escape further sanction for a hefty challenge on Adlene Guedioura on halfway.
Moments later, Kyle Vassell looked to have won a corner following a duel with Saidy Janko near the touchline but a goal-kick was given while the ex-Blackpool forward required lengthy treatment in the aftermath of the move.
With the Millers back to their full complement of players, Grabban was inches away from latching onto Guedioura’s through ball before Williams made a hash of a Rotherham corner, which almost led to a quick Forest counter.
Moments later, Will Vaulks showed great composure and fleet of foot to snuff out a Forest attack before Vassell was unceremoniously felled by Hefele on the edge of the box to present Manning with the chance to plant a ball in the home box but Ajayi could not control his header and the chance was lost.
In the next Millers attack, Vaulks sneaked in at the back post to meet Manning’s corner but he could not direct his point-blank header goalwards before Proctor failed to make the most of a Millers break, by squandering the opportunity to put Williams in the clear, before losing possession.
On the half-hour, Williams had to be on his toes to divert Joao Carvalho’s dinked cross to safety before Gil Dias’ pass gave Osborn the chance to drill a low effort which was blocked en-route to the Millers goal.
Minutes later, Guedioura became the first to see yellow for a cynical trip on Manning, who was denied the opportunity to launch a Rotherham attack before Jones soon joined him in the book for a heavy challenge from behind on Carvalho.
In the next Forest foray, Jones put his body on the line to block Grabban’s low effort from the edge of the box before Mattock put in a superb sliding challenge to bring Dias’ marauding run to a halt.
With half-time approaching, Vassell skipped down the by-line before pulling the ball back into the path of Manning, who tried his luck from distance but his rising effort failed to trouble Costel Pantilimon in the home goal.
Half-time- Nottingham Forest 0 Rotherham United 0
Following the break, Smith replaced Proctor as the spearhead of the Rotherham attack but it was Forest, who came within a coat of paint of opening the scoring when Janko dug out a cross and Carvalho, almost ghosted in the box unnoticed, to put the ball under his spell before firing goalwards from close range, but the upright came to Rotherham’s rescue – with Marek Rodak beaten.
The home side were cranking up the pressure and Mattock bravely charged down Guedioura’s bullet free-kick before Forest had faint appeals for a spot kick when Dias’ knock down appeared to strike the arm of Mattock, but the referee waved away home protests.
Minutes later, Dias’ ghosted inside with menace to curl a left-footed effort from the edge of the box which was smothered by Rodak before Smith rose highest to meet Vaulks’ centre, at the other end, but Pantilimon plucked the ball out of the sky – although any goal would have been chalked off for a foul.
The home side had a lucky escape when Guedioura, who had earlier been booked, hauled down Williams in full flow but no further action was taken against the home midfielder before Rotherham came within a whisker of the opener when Smith drilled a tantalising centre across the face of the home goal but it was agonisingly inches away from the outstretched leg of Vassell – whose momentum saw him clatter into Pantilimon.
With the game in the balance, Vassell almost broke clear but a last-ditch tackle from Danny Fox halted his progress before Manning’s corner caused havoc in the Forest box but the home side fortuitously managed to scramble the ball clear.
Minutes later, Williams had the home side in a daze with a mazy run as Fox blocked Towell’s cross before Forest were indebted to Pantilimon for preserving parity when Smith’s slide-rule pass saw Towell beat the offside trap to fire a fierce effort from an acute angle which was arrowing into the roof of the home net before the ex-Manchester City ‘keeper showed great reflexes to keep the ball out.
The moment proved critical as Forest snatched victory with four minutes to go when Lolley’s perfectly weighted pass saw Osborn get on the wrong side of Williams in the box, before being felled by the Millers midfielder and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
From the resultant penalty, Grabban kept his nerve to wrong foot Rodak – with a measured run-up and finish, to turn a tight game in Forest’s favour.
Full-time- Nottingham Forest 1 Rotherham United 0
Nottingham Forest 1
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Forest- Pantilimon, Fox, Guedioura (Lolley 60), Grabban, Watson, Carvalho (Bridcutt 90), Osborn, Robinson, Janko, Dias (Cash 71), Hefele. Unused- Steele, Goncalves, Dawson, Darikwa.
Rotherham- Rodak, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood, Proctor (Smith 46), Towell (Taylor 88), Manning (Palmer 71), Vassell, Williams, Jones. Unused- Price, Vyner, Forde, Wiles.
Referee- R Jones
Attendance- 27479 (1291)