Rotherham United displaced league leaders Ipswich Town to reclaim top spot in Sky Bet League One with a dominant showing at AESSEAL New York Stadium on Tuesday night which saw their attacking efforts rewarded with a 1-0 triumph.
Despite a number of innovative home attacks it was a routine header from Richard Wood, putting himself where it hurt, which earned the Millers all three points in the first versus second clash in the third tier in midweek.
Paul Warne was without the services of attacking duo Kyle Vassell and Matt Crooks for the narrow defeat to Peterborough United at London Road on Saturday, but was able to recall both for the midweek hosting of the league leaders.
Also back in the fold was Adam Thompson who returned to the action having served a three-game suspension following his dismissal in the Emirates FA Cup Third Round tie with Hull City and he came in to take Matt Olosunde’s position at right back, with the American dropping to the bench.
With two of the division’s heavyweights jostling to position in the match, it was the hosts who registered the first shot. The Millers sent forward the cavalry to attack a Dan Barlaser free kick near the centre circle, but it was a routine from the training ground which saw them threaten the opener.
The Newcastle United loanee’s cleverly disguised slide rule ball into the path of Kyle Vassell escaped the attentions of the Tractor Boys’ rearguard before the in-form front man thundered an effort at the underside of the crossbar from a difficult and was unlucky to see the ball bounce away from goal.
The same taker tried to provide the ammunition from the corner that followed the attack and he successfully picked out Michael Smith at the far post, whose header was well-directed but didn’t have the desired power to really trouble Will Norris in the visitors’ goal.
Barlaser had found himself heavily involved in the Millers’ best moves inside the first 20 minutes and was provider again for their next forward foray of note. This time a perfectly-executed cross-field ball picked out the run of Hakeeb Adelakun advancing into the area on the left and after a nice take, the Bristol City loanee forced a smart stop from Norris at a tight angle at his near post.
Daniel Iversen had been a bystander for the opening stages of the game and that remained the case on 23 minutes as the Millers threatened at the other end again. This time a downward header from skipper Richard Wood in the Ipswich area almost dropped inside the six yard box for the onrushing Matt Crooks, who was unfortunate to see Norris alert to the danger and off his line to gather and halt the hosts’ progress.
The lack of coverage for Ipswich Town chances was reflective of the Millers’ dominance of the Sky Bet League One encounter at AESSEAL New York Stadium and Warne’s men continued to knock on the door for an opener as the half progressed.
This time some improvisation from Crooks at the far post saw him backheel a ball into the path of Vassell in the six yard box, but his snapshot on the turn was well-blocked by a nearby blue shirt to thwart the hosts once more.
The Millers’ persistence finally paid off on 42 minutes and it was their captain who lead by example by etching his name onto the scoresheet to make it 1-0. Again, a Barlaser dead ball caused problems for Ipswich as Smith once again headed at goal at the back post this time forcing Norris to parry the ball out, leaving Wood with a chance to head home from close-range which he duly took to send the home fans into raptures.
Ipswich came as close as they had for the entirety of the first half in added time as a Kayden Jackson’s cross picked out a dangerous area in the Millers penalty box, but the ever-reliable Michael Ihiekwe was well-positioned to head away ensuring his side went into the break with the advantage.
Half-time | Rotherham United 1 v 0 Ipswich Town
Warne’s men didn’t relax their attacking intent following the restart and were once again the side looking most likely to rippled the net as the second half kicked off.
Chiedozie Ogbene and Adelakun both tried their luck down the flanks and enjoyed some success with the former delivering a couple of crosses which were repelled by retreating defenders.
The Bristol City loanee then got in on the action soon after with some neat wing play of his own to create a big opportunity for the Millers to double their advantage. His searching ball from the left was inches away from Smith making contact in front of goal, but even closer to Ogbene running in on the back post, where the awkward bounce of the ball saw it evade his head where a touch would probably have taken it over the line.
Thompson, who has enjoyed his deployment in the right back position since arriving with the Millers, was next to venture forward and send in a cross which again found the towering figure of Smith in the area. The forward’s knockdown picked out his attacking partner Vassell, but his acrobatic effort similar to the one that won him Goal of the Month for League One in December, was this time well-blocked by James Wilson.
Another attack came and it was the Millers with it yet again and in fact, they had the ball in the back of the net this time, but it would be ruled out. Barlaser’s high quality crossing continued as his drilled corner allowed Wood another header inside the area which did cross the line, only for referee Antony Coggins to disallow his effort for a foul on the goalkeeper.
Crooks managed to carve open the Tractor Boys’ defence soon after with a long ball sprayed out to Ogbene on the right where the electric winger drove for the byline before stinging Norris’ palms with a low strike from a difficult angle.
The aerial bombardment continued and it was yet another corner from, you guessed it, Barlaser, which troubled Paul Lambert’s side. This time the Newcastle loanee’s centre found Ihiekwe, before Vassell helped it on its way, only to see Norris palm the ball away in a crowded box.
Keen not to allow their pressure to relent, Warne freshened up his pack introducing Ben Wiles and Freddie Ladapo in the places of Crooks and Vassell and it was the young midfielder who almost made an immediate impact seconds after coming on.
There looked to be little danger when the ball fell for the Rotherham United Academy graduate on the edge of the area, but Wiles’ thunderous volley caused a moment of concern for the goalkeeper as it whistled just wide of the near post.
It was the Magic Man, Richard Wood, who had scored the opener but Adelakun almost conjured a trick of his own on 76 minutes. The winger, playing inverted on the left, stepped inside onto his favoured right foot and caught everyone inside AESSEAL New York Stadium off-guard, including the goalkeeper as his beautifully stricken curling effort from 30 yards ricocheted off the crossbar near the top corner and away from danger.
A deft touch from Alan Judge up the other end produced a half-chance for the visitors with 10 minutes left on the clock, as his technique allowed for Jackson to run into the area, where he didn’t quite catch his effort properly leaving Iversen with an easy save at his near post.
After Joe Mattock had committed a cynical foul of substitute James Norwood to halt a promising Ipswich attack, Garbutt had chance to take aim at the Millers’ goal with a well-placed free kick 25 yards out. He duly obliged, with a good effort which went up and over the wall, but found Iversen in the right place at the right time to palm his rasping effort over for a corner.
Despite controlling the game throughout the Millers received an almighty injury time scare as Ipswich sub James Norwood somehow stole in at the near post to squeeze an effort beyond Iversen, but there was a huge sigh of relief as his effort hit the opposite upright before Wood scrambled the ball to safety to ensure his side the points.
Full-time | Rotherham United 1 v 0 Ipswich Town
Millers | Iversen; Thompson, Ihiekwe, Wood, Mattock; Ogbene, Barlaser, Crooks (Wiles 72), Adelakun (Olosunde 88); Vassell (Ladapo 75), Smith.
Unused | Bilboe, MacDonald, Lindsay, Lamy.
Ipswich Town| Norris; Chambers, Wilson, Woolfenden; Edwards, Downes, Huws (Nolan 68), Garbutt; Judge (Sears 80); Jackson, Keane (Norwood 67).
Unused | Holy, Kenlock, Skuse, Bishop.
Attendance: 9,327 (923 away)