Injury-hit Millers fall to brave defeat......
Rotherham United were beset by a number of injuries during their AESSEAL New York Stadium clash with Norwich City as Dean Smith’s side returned south with a narrow victory.
Aston Villa loanee Aaron Ramsey was the match winner for the visitors, after he struck just seconds after Ollie Rathbone had cancelled out Kenny McLean’s first-half opener.
The Millers were cursing their luck in their last Sky Bet Championship home match before the World Cup break as Conor Washington and his replacement, Georgie Kelly were forced to leave the proceedings following injuries before Grant Hall suffered the same fate in the second 45.
Following their heart breaking defeat at Burnley in midweek, boss Matt Taylor made three changes to his starting line-up for the visit of the Canaries.
Club skipper Richard Wood was recalled in the home defence while Jamie Lindsay freshened up the midfield options. Summer signing Peter Kioso was also handed his first league start in Millers colours, following a long spell out with injury.
Washington spearheaded the Rotherham attack once again with Ben Wiles, in a supporting role just behind him.
The visitors settled into the affair the quicker but it was Rotherham, who had the first attacks of note, when firstly Brooke Norton-Cuffy worked a yard of space on Max Aarons to deliver a tantalising cross to the far post, and Kioso was unmarked, but he could only volley a point-blank effort against the outside of the post from a tight angle.
Wiles was almost the recipient of a lovely move involving Rathbone and Washington but he was crowded out before he could get his shot away.
The Millers fans held their breath when a ball over the top saw Norwich’s top-scorer Josh Sargent get on the wrong side of Wood before looking to race towards goal, but a tangle of legs saw the American player tumble under his challenge, but the referee waved away strong Norwich protests for a foul, and possible sanctions against the home captain.
In a lively opening, Rotherham were giving as good as they got, and Dan Barlaser threaded a pinpoint pass into the run of Rathbone, who tried his luck with a curling effort, from just inside the box, but the ball whistled past the upright with Norwich ‘keeper Angus Gunn nervously scurrying across goal.
Despite the Millers’ early promptings, Norwich broke the deadlock on 17 minutes in a lightning switch of play.
The Millers were short of numbers on the left flank and Aarons released Gabriel Sara, who initially darted past Norton-Cuffy, who to his credit, initially halted his progress, but the Brazilian player was able to plant a cross, at the second attempt, which was agonisingly deflected by the Arsenal loanee, into the path of McLean, at the far post, who had the simple task of heading home into the unguarded net.
The visitors were looking dangerous on the right-hand side of the pitch with Aarons and Sara once again combining to great effect and Aarons broke free before planting a low cross which Teemu Pukki deftly tried to flick towards goal, but Viktor Johansson was untroubled.
The early goal seemed to take the wind out of the Millers sails and Norwich threatened again when Sara delivered a corner which saw Scottish international Grant Hanley rise highest, but he glanced his header wide when he really should better from just yards out.
The Millers’ hopes of getting back into the match were dealt a blow when Washington was forced to be withdrawn – with what appeared to be a muscle injury – and Kelly was introduced to lead the home line.
Both teams traded chances when McCallum flashed a left-foot shot well wide of the target before Barlaser delivered a free-kick, at the other end, which was met by the head of Kelly, who nodded the ball down, and Isaac Hayden, under pressure, from a Rotherham attacker, hacked the ball over his own crossbar – although a goal kick was given.
The Millers’ injury woes went from bad to worse when Kelly looked to latch onto a ball near the touchline with Ben Gibson in hot pursuit, and the Irish striker pulled up with another muscle injury – and he left the fray just eight minutes after coming on.
It was a case of next man up and Ogbene – a scorer in midweek - was the latest to be asked to ply the lone furrow upfront.
The Millers finished the half strongly and Norton-Cuffy had a glimpse of goal when he forced Gunn into a smothered save before Norwich scrambled the ball clear.
Half-time: Rotherham United 0 Norwich City 1
The Millers made the perfect start to the second half when they levelled matters in their first attack of the half.
Gabriel Sara made a misplaced pass across the face of his own backline and Rathbone was the grateful recipient and he raced towards the Norwich goal, and after neglecting the chance to slip in Ogbene, the ex-Rochdale midfielder cut inside on his left-foot to flash a fierce effort from the edge of the box which beat the outstretched hand of Gunn.
However, Rotherham’s joy proved to be very short lived as Norwich regained their advantage within a minute.
The Canaries attacked with purpose and Sargent decided to take aim from outside the box and although Johansson beat back his stinging effort, the Millers goal was still under threat and with Grant Hall in no position to clear the danger as Pukki lurked for a tap-in, the ball fell kindly for Aaron Ramsey, who had the simple task of slotting home.
The Millers were forced into further changes as Hall pulled up while Kioso was taken off in his first game back.
The home disruption was clearly evident as Sara split open the Rotherham defence with a slide-rule pass and Sargent looked set to make it three but Johansson parried his goalbound effort to safety.
The Millers had a few further scares when the referee waved away vehement Norwich appeals for a spot kick after Aarons’ low cross struck the arm of a sliding Rathbone in the box before McCallum met Sara’s cross from the resultant corner, but he headed wide from an inviting position.
The Millers were struggling to create anything of note until they came close to levelling matters for a second time – with quarter of an hour to go - when a ball was placed into the feet of Wiles, who found himself in front of the Norwich goal, but Aarons came out of nowhere with a goal saving block before Norton-Cuffy stung the palms of Gunn with a follow-up effort.
With the game in the balance, Sargent and Pukki had shots blocked before McCallum was deservedly booked for hauling down Ogbene, just outside the box but Barlaser failed to make it count from the resultant free-kick when his delivery was straight down the throat of Gunn.
With time running out, the Millers fans were off their seats, screaming for a spot kick as Ogbene, who was running at full speed, fell under the challenge of Hayden in the penalty area but the referee ignored home protests and cautioned the Republic of Ireland international for simulation.
In a feisty finish, Gibson and sub Jordan Hugill were yellow-carded for the Canaries before Ogbene had Rotherham’s last chance of note when he tried his luck with a long range effort, which had Gunn flying across his goal, as it flew narrowly wide of the target.
Full-time: Rotherham United 1 Norwich City 2
Rotherham United 1
Norwich City 2
Teams:- Rotherham- Johansson, Harding, Barlaser, Wood, Wiles, Norton-Cuffy, Washington (Kelly 37, Ogbene 45), Lindsay, Rathbone, Hall (Peltier 54), Kioso (Eaves 54). Unused- Vickers, Odoffin, Humphreys.
Norwich- Gunn, Aarons,, Hanley, Gibson, Hayden, McCallum (Gibbs 87), Sara, Ramsey (Cantwell 70), Pukki (Hugill 90), McLean, Sargent. Unused- Krul, Dowell, Hernandez, Giannoulis.
Referee- D Whitestone
Attendance- 10913 (2099)