Millers slip to narrow defeat....
A wonder strike from Yaser Asprilla condemned the Millers to their fourth successive Sky Bet Championship defeat at the hands of play-off chasing Watford, but there was very little to separate the sides at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
The Millers gave as good as they got for large spells of the game with skipper Sean Morrison coming close on several occasions but Asprilla’s second-half goal settled the tight affair in the Hornets favour.
Millers Head Coach Leam Richardson made two changes to his starting line-up following the midweek reversal to Hull City.
Morrison returned to the Millers rearguard while January deadline day signing Andy Rinomhota made his full debut in Millers colours.
Sam Clucas and Lee Peltier were the players to make way from the Tigers defeat although both were named on the home bench.
The Millers made a positive start and they had the first shot in anger when Charlie Wyke struck a low effort which was blocked by Wesley Hoedt before Francisco Sierralta put his body on the line to deny strike partner Sam Nombe, just seconds later.
Minutes later, Rinomhota and Nombe combined smartly with the latter forcing a corner but Seb Revan’s set piece cleared both Morrison and Wyke at the far post.
Richardson’s side were looking the most likely and Cameron Humphreys’ defence-splitting pass was flicked on by Hakeem Odoffin into the path of Kioso – who pulled the ball back into the stride of Odoffin – but the versatile Rotherham player blazed over with his weaker left-foot.
In the next Rotherham attack, Morrison launched a long throw into the box which was only half-cleared by a retreating Watford defender and Rinomhota volleyed harmlessly wide of the target.
Nevertheless, Watford – in their first attack of note - launched a quick counter-attack and Edo Kayembe’s through ball saw Ken Sema get on the wrong side of Odoffin initially, but as he looked to take aim from just inside the box, Odoffin put in a superbly-timed tackle to snuff out the danger.
In the next period of play, Sierralta rose highest from a ruck of bodies in the box but he headed wide of the target.
Sierralta had another half-chance when Viktor Johansson uncharacteristically flapped at a Watford corner, but the Chilean international was unable to turn the ball home at the far post from point-blank range.
Valerien Ismael’s side had upped the tempo following a slow start and Asprilla let fly with a left-footed effort from distance which took a wicked deflection, as it narrowly cleared the home crossbar.
There was a temporary stop in play when Peter Kioso required treatment but just seconds after returning to the fray, the Millers wing-back met Ollie Rathbone’s free-kick, but his looping header was plucked out of the sky by Ben Hamer.
Minutes later, Kioso’s quick throw released Rathbone, who skipped to the byline, but his cross was cut out by Sierralta before Hamer was at full stretch to diffuse Christ Tiehi’s inswinging centre.
In the last act of the half, Watford turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye and Mileta Rajovic exchanged passes with Asprilla, before looking set to strike, but Odoffin put in a goal-saving tackle to maintain parity at the interval.
Half-time: Rotherham United 0 Watford 0
There was little to report early in the second 45 before both Humphreys and Odoffin kept their nerve with superb pieces of skill, defensively, following a high Watford press.
There was a moment of controversy when Rinomhota appeared to have been bundled over just inside the box by a Hornets defender, but no further action was taken despite home protests.
Both sides traded chances when Nombe turned smartly before delivering a dangerous cross which Mattie Pollock was forced to divert to safety before Johansson had to race off his line to deny Rajovic following smart work from sub Giorgi Chakvetadze.
Just before the half hour mark, Rotherham found themselves behind when Watford broke the deadlock.
Fellow sub Tom Ince was put through but Odoffin was forced to turn the ball behind for a corner.
The danger was not over for the Millers when Sema delivered a centre into the six-yard box and with the home side failing to clear the danger, Chakvetadze had an initial effort which was blocked but Asprilla made no mistake with the rebound as he rifled a fierce left-footed effort which whistled into the top far corner of the Rotherham net giving Johansson no chance.
Home frustration boiled over when Rinomhota became the first to see yellow for a foul on Chakvetadze before Tiehi blasted into the Millers fans behind the goal following good build-up work from Revan and Rathbone.
Revan took one for the team for hauling down Sema in full flow to join Rinomhota in the book before Richardson made a triple substitution with just over 20 minutes to go.
The move almost paid immediate dividends when firstly a switch of play presented Revan with the chance to strike and he duly obliged by firing a low effort which shaved the visitors’ upright before one of the subs, Hugill, headed harmlessly wide of the target, from just yards out.
The home side were having their best spell of the game and Morrison came close on two occasions with a header and follow-up effort before Rathbone blasted over.
Richardson’s side continued to press and Clucas’ pinpoint corner was met by the head of Morrison, just yards out, but Rotherham’s talisman unluckily headed into the ground before the ball bounced over the crossbar.
The home side were giving it their all in the latter stages and Rinomhota had a low shot blocked following good work by Revan before Odoffin nodded wide from Clucas’ resultant corner.
In stoppage time, Odoffin headed over following Morrison’s long throw but despite their late rally, Rotherham had nothing to show for their hardworking efforts on the day.
Full-time: Rotherham United 0 Watford 1
Rotherham United 0
Teams: Rotherham- Johansson, Rinomhota, Wyke (Hugill 68), Rathbone, Odoffin, Morrison, Humphreys (Cafu 79), Tiehi (Clucas 68), Revan, Nombe (Eaves 68), Kioso (Ferguson 79). Unused- Phillips, Lindsay, Peltier, Seriki.
Watford- Hamer, Sierralta, Hoedt, Lewis (Dennis 86), Rajovic, Kone (Chakvetadze 55), Sema (Livermore 76), Pollock, Asprilla (Andrews 86), Dele-Bashiru, Kayembe (Ince 55). Unused- Bachmann, Martins, Morris, Grieves.
Referee- A Kitchen
Attendance- 10143 (1571)