The Millers secure a famous victory at Bramall Lane…
Against all odds, Rotherham United prevailed under the Bramall Lane lights – a feat that they have not accomplished in over 40 years.
An impressive attacking display in the first half, including a cool Ben Wiles finish, followed by an equally impressive defensive performance in the second half was enough to bring all three points back to Rotherham.
Matt Taylor characteristically shuffled the pack for this Yorkshire derby as Cohen Bramall marked his return from suspension with a start on the left replacing Arsenal loanee Brooke Norton-Cuffy. There was a duo of changes at centre back as Cameron Humphreys and Lee Peltier replaced Richard Wood and the injured Grant Hall. The fourth and final change was up top, where Chiedozie Ogbene returns from injury to start, replacing Conor Washington.
A intensely physical opening few minutes saw the Millers look to play (true to Matt Taylor’s words) on the front foot whenever they had the ball, pressing relentlessly and almost forcing a mistake amongst the Blades’ deep-sitting midfield as Ollie Norwood and Ben Osborn failed to communicate, but the latter recovered.
Johansson was first called into action when an Ollie Norwood freekick was floated towards his near post in search of Ahmedhodžić. The towering Bosnian managed to head in the direction of goal, but the Millers ‘keeper was alert as he rushed out to push away the danger.
Sheffield United looked to launch a counter attack down the Millers left side, but a lightening quick Cohen Bramall made up ground on his man in seconds, flying in with a perfectly-placed and crucial sliding challenge to halt the Blades progress.
The Millers continued to apply pressure as a brilliant sequence of passes saw them work their way into deep into Sheffield United territory. Cohen Bramall looked to play a final one-two with Barlaser, but the Blades rearguard was alert as Anel Ahmedhodžić was in place to clear the danger.
Defying the bookies, the Millers were comfortably on the front foot as they again forged a brilliant opportunity for themselves. Cohen Bramall latched onto a ball towards the by-line and floated in a well-placed, first-time cross from wing-back to wing-back. Peter Kioso headed just over, past an outstretched Foderingham.
The Blades’ first major chance came when substitute McAtee spotted the run of Irishman Enda Stevens, who cut back across the face of goal. A finishing touch was all that was needed by a Blades shirt, but Cam Humphreys utilised his strength, got in well, and dealt with the danger to keep the scoresheet blank.
The Rotherham blackline again found themselves called into action as Greek International George Baldock looked to send a ball across the face of goal in search of McBurnie, but again Cameron Humphreys was alert and positioned himself well to turn it over the bar and out of play.
Both sides enjoyed spells of consistent pressure – it was simply a matter on who would be the first to capitalise on theirs.
That question would soon be answered as the Millers broke the deadlock through Ben Wiles. Chiedozie Ogbene capitalised on a defensive mix-up between Egan and Robinson, slotting a ball through for the skipper who made no mistake in burying it into Foderingham’s bottom left.
The Blades went in search of an instant reply through McAtee. The Manchester City-loanee slid through a threatening ball for McBurnie but it was Wes Harding this time who nipped in front of the attacker and kept the Millers’ lead intact.
The Blades through that they had levelled the scores just before the half-time break when the ball fell kindly to the feet of Stevens after a deflection off the chest of McBurnie. The wing-back slotted the ball into the bottom corner of Johansson’s goal, but the linesman’s flag was already raised.
HALF-TIME: SHEFFIELD UNITED 0 – 1 ROTHERHAM
The Blades squandered a golden opportunity early in the second half when the ball was lumped back into the danger area following a headed clearance from a corner. The looping ball found Sheffield United skipper John Egan is acres of space, but his powerful volley was directed at Johansson from close range, as the Swede got his hands to it to paw it over the bar.
Heckingbottom’s men had the favourable share of chances throughout the start of the second ’45, but it was the Millers who stood tall and were defensively brilliant as they continued to deny the Blades.
Rotherham came a whisker away once again as Peter Kioso won a free kick inside Blades’ territory. Barlaser’s subsequent delivery flashed across the face of goal, needing just a final touch to double the Millers lead. Chiedozie Ogbene came inches away from providing this, but the ball just escaped the striker.
Sheffield United came close once again through Jack Robinson’s long throw. The Blades’ defender launched the ball towards goal. The towering Scotsman Oli McBurnie met the throw but Johansson produced an incredible save from close range when he got down quick to keep the Millers’ noses in front.
Sheffield United continued to ask questions of the Millers defence, but no one went unanswered. Reda Khadra found space for a cross shortly after his introduction, which met the head of a leaping Billy Sharp. The striker’s glancing header was just wide of Johansson’s far post.
FULL TIME: SHEFFIELD UNITED 0 – 1 ROTHERHAM
Sheffield United – Foderingham, Baldock, Stevens (Sharp ’68), Fleck (McAtee ’20) (Khadra ’80), McBurnie, Egan ©, Ahmedhodžić (Basham ’68), Norwood, Robinson, Osborn, Ndiaye; SUBS – Davies, Clark, Arblaster.
Rotherham United – Johansson, Harding, Bramall, Barlaser, Wiles ©, Ogbene, Lindsay (Eaves ’89), Rathbone (Odoffin ’89), Peltier, Humphreys, Kioso (Norton-Cuffy ’78); SUBS – Wood, High, Vickers, Douglas.
Referee – Keith Stroud