Barlaser hits Millers winner....
Rotherham United made it three wins on the spin when Dan Barlaser’s superb free-kick turned the tide of a nerve-jangling AESSEAL New York Stadium affair with Blackpool in the Millers favour.
Paul Warne’s side were not duly rewarded for a fine first-half performance when Armand Gnanduillet cancelled out Michael Smith’s opener but Barlaser proved to be the Rotherham hero – with a well-struck free kick, which proved decisive in the end.
Following their four-goal rout of Peterborough United, just three days ago, Millers chief Warne made three changes to his starting line-up for the visit of Simon Grayson’s side.
Two changes were enforced with Joe Mattock ruled out due to his sending-off against the Posh so American full-back Matt Olosunde was asked to ply his trade in the left-back slot with Adam Thompson continuing his role on the opposite flank. Former Seasider Clark Robertson was unavailable due to a knock sustained in the same game with Posh goal hero Richard Wood, taking his place at the heart of the Rotherham rearguard and the skippers’ armband in the process.
Ben Wiles was handed a recall in the Millers engine room while Smith led the Rotherham line alongside Freddie Ladapo with Carlton Morris having to settle for a place amongst the substitutes.
The home side settled the quicker into the game and they earned a succession of corners – with Jordan Thompson heading one over his own bar before Barlaser fizzed a dangerous centre into the danger area which was fortuitously bundled to safety by the visitors.
Moments later, Chiedozie Ogbene showed Thompson a clean pair of heels to race away but the opportunity came to nothing before Freddie Ladapo, who needed treatment in the early stages, was denied the chance to strike in the box following a fine sliding tackle by a retreating Blackpool defender.
Just before the quarter hour, Matt Crooks latched onto a loose ball to strike from distance but his effort failed to trouble Mark Howard, in the visitors’ goal.
In Blackpool’s first foray of note, Nathan Delfouneso skipped past Wood with ease before playing a slide-rule pass to Gnanduillet, who returned the favour with a cross into the box but Delfouneso, under pressure from a last-ditch tackle from Thompson, was unable to keep his shot down, as it blazed into the home faithful behind the goal.
The Millers were rewarded for their early superiority with the opening goal on 21 minutes when Ogbene won the corner off Husband which paved the way for Barlaser to caress another centre into the box and Smith showed his aerial prowess, by holding off the attentions of his marker, to plant a header which found the Blackpool net via the underside of the bar – with Howard, in no position, to keep the ball out.
The Millers were buoyed by the breakthrough and Smith headed narrowly wide of the target - with his effort taking a slight deflection off Husband en-route to goal, before Barlaser almost caught Howard napping with another tantalising corner which the Blackpool ‘keeper had to collect, from just underneath his own crossbar.
The former Sheffield United stopper was in the thick of the action and he made a hash of plucking Barlaser’s long, arrowed free kick out of the sky – with Smith lurking, and Michael Ihiekwe had the chance to put the ball into the unguarded net, but his effort lacked power and the visitors’ scrambled the ball to safety.
However, Blackpool levelled matters on 34 minutes after Rotherham were caught short at a short corner and Thompson and Husband, combined smartly, as the former swung over a delicious centre which had Daniel Iversen clutching at thin air and Gnanduillet was on-hand at the far post, to head home from close range – with many Rotherham fans asking for an offside flag, which never came.
The Millers responded positively to the setback and Ogbene skipped down the right flank but his cross was over-hit while the same player darted to the edge of the box before firing over from a promising position.
Half-time- Rotherham United 1 Blackpool 1
The home side had the first sight of goal in the second 45 when good build-up play from Olosunde presented Smith with the chance to strike, but Howard got his body behind his shot before Smith and sub Curtis Tilt tussled in the box, which resulted in the Rotherham striker being felled, but the referee waved away vehement home appeals for a spot kick.
At the other end, Ollie Turton’s perfectly weighted pass saw Matty Virtue get on the wrong side of Crooks, to strike goalwards but Iversen bravely blocked his low shot, at close quarters.
Minutes later, Crooks blasted over when he should have done better from Smith’s knockdown from Barlaser’s corner before Gnanduillet drove a low effort through a host of legs, at the other end, but Iversen was his equal with a fine save.
The Millers fans were again up in arms when Ihiekwe appeared to be held back in the box as he attempted to meet a centre, but the referee took no further action before Ogbene had Howard backtracking nervously – with a deep cross which sailed narrowly over the crossbar.
On the hour mark, Jay Spearing spread the play to great effect and Husband drilled a delicious centre which took Iversen out of the game but sub Joe Nuttall was inches away from turning the ball home, at the far post, before Howard spilled a hanging cross which Smith attempted to hook home, at the other end, but a well-stationed Blackpool defender hacked clear from his own line.
With the game in the balance, the Millers came close to regaining the lead when Wiles got round the back and with Blackpool failing to snuff out the danger, sub Kyle Vassell almost came back to haunt his former club with a scuffed effort, which an off-balance Howard, had to tip over, despite being grounded.
Minutes later, Virtue was yellow-carded for a rash tackle on Olosunde before Vassell squandered an opportunity to put the home side ahead when a game of head tennis, in the box, involving Smith and Thompson gave him the chance to nod home, but he blazed his effort over, when he should have done better.
Vassell was in the thick of the action and after being bundled over unceremoniously on the edge of the box, the Rotherham frontman almost exacted retribution from the resultant free-kick but his low effort around the wall smashed into the side netting without threatening the visitors’ goal.
There was a moment of controversy when Vassell’s hopeful lob saw Spearing cynically haul down fellow sub Morris on the edge of the box. The ex-Liverpool midfielder was cautioned for the challenge but it was the least of Blackpool’s worries as Rotherham punished the visitors to the full from the resultant free-kick – with the winning goal with five minutes remaining.
With Crooks walking away from the set-piece, Vassell and Barlaser weighed up their options, centrally, but it was the latter, who struck a superb right-footed effort with his in-step, and the ball arrowed into the far corner of the net giving Howard no chance.
In the dying minutes, Spearing almost atoned for his error with a low effort which stung the palms of Iversen, who saved smartly, before Crooks was cautioned for a pull-back on halfway, in the last noteworthy action of the game.
Full-time- Rotherham United 2 Blackpool 1
Rotherham United 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Iversen, A Thompson, Wood, Wiles (Hastie 69), Ladapo (Vassell 63), Barlaser, Crooks, Ogbene, Ihiekwe, Olosunde, Smith (Morris 81). Unused- Price, Lindsay, Clarke, Lamy.
Blackpool- Howard, Edwards, Heneghan, Delfouneso, Spearing, Kaikai (Nuttall 46), J Thompson (Tilt 46), Virtue, Turton (Feeney 87), Gnanduillet, Husband. Unused- Sims, Nottingham, Guy, MacDonald.
Referee- J Adcock
Attendance- 8689 (588)