Millers bow out of FA Cup....
Rotherham United exited the Emirates FA Cup at the third round stage but they pushed Premier League Fulham all the way at Craven Cottage.
The Millers gave a good account of themselves in the capital but Bobby De Cordova-Reid’s first half goal settled the tie in the hosts’ favour.
Head Coach Leam Richardson made three changes to his Millers starting line-up following the New Year’s Day draw with Blackburn Rovers.
There was a midfield reshuffle with Cafu and Jamie Lindsay introduced at the expense of Christ Tiehi and Ollie Rathbone, who were both named on the bench.
Jordan Hugill was recalled in the Millers forward line alongside Ewood Park hero Tom Eaves.
Richardson also had the luxury of calling upon a full complement of substitutes with Lee Peltier returning following a hamstring strain and Tolaji Bola named after a long absence from first-team action.
The Millers travelled to the capital in good heart following a three match unbeaten run in the Sky Bet Championship.
The Cottagers fielded a strong looking line-up with the starting eleven packed with fully-fledged international players.
There was a familiar face in the home goal with one-time Millers loanee Marek Rodak named between the sticks.
The Millers had an early sight of goal when Sean Morrison’s long-throw was met by the head of Hugill, who attempted to nod goalwards, but Rodak was able to safely let the ball go into the side netting.
Fulham had their first shot in anger when De Cordova-Reid’s low drive was blocked by Morrison en-route to goal before Viktor Johansson showed good hands to pluck Andreas Pereira’s cross out of the sky.
The Millers were indebted to Morrison for superb, back-to-back defensive headers to clear the danger temporarily before the Millers captain showed all his experience with a lovely intervention to snuff out another home attack.
Minutes later, Seb Revan showed good awareness to divert De Cordova-Reid’s cross to safety with Harry Wilson lurking before Rotherham scrambled the resultant corner away from danger.
However, Rotherham were the architects’ of their own downfall when Fulham broke the deadlock with 24 minutes on the clock.
The Millers inexplicably tried to play their way out from deep with Morrison playing a back pass to Johansson, who in turn gave the ball to Revan in his own box and the Aston Villa loanee took a touch too many, and Wilson got a timely nick on the ball.
The visitors were at sizes and sevens defensively as De Cordova-Reid latched onto the loose ball in a central position just outside the box and he punished the Millers for their indiscretion to the full with a powerful, arrowed shot which fizzed past Johansson.
The Millers responded positively to the setback and they had their ball in the net, minutes later, although an offside award – backed up by the VAR officials, curbed any visiting celebrations.
Sam Clucas floated a free-kick into the Fulham box and following some defensive hesitation, Hakeem Odoffin played the ball to Eaves, who made light work of Issa Diop with some fancy footwork before drilling a fierce effort which Hugill turned home smartly at the far post.
However, Rotherham’s joy proved short-lived with the goal ruled out.
Just past the half-hour mark, Wilson’s clearance fell kindly for Rodrigo Muniz – who drove hard at the Rotherham defence - before gliding past Morrison with ease but he fired his shot harmlessly wide of the target.
Minutes later, De Cordova-Reid failed to get Muniz’s through ball under his spell and the chance was lost.
With half-time approaching, the Millers were thankful to the woodwork and a brave block by Revan for keeping them in the game.
Kenny Tete skipped down the right flank before planting a cross which was inch-perfect for Pereira, but his point-blank effort smashed against the post, and in the ensuing melee, Harrison Reed looked to turn the rebound home but Revan put his body on the line to divert the ball away from goal.
The home fans and players were claiming that Revan may have blocked the shot by illegal means but the VAR check came to nothing.
Half-time: Fulham 1 Rotherham United 0
The home side started the second half on the front foot and Pereira smashed a long-range free-kick which dipped just over the Millers bar although Johansson was on-hand to intervene if needed.
Minutes later, Wilson sprayed a pass to the left-flank which presented Timothy Castagne with the chance to pick out the on-rushing Reed, who threatened the target but once again, Morrison was perfectly placed to deny him with a timely block.
Marco Silva’s side had upped the tempo and Wilson stung the palms of Johansson with a left-footed effort from distance.
The Swedish stopper, uncharacteristically, then found a Tete cross too hot to handle, and Muniz looked set to make it two from close range but Morrison spared his ‘keeper’s blushes with a block at close quarters.
The Millers were weathering a home storm and Johansson pulled off a fine save to tip over Tosin’s bullet header from Pereira’s corner before the visiting ‘keeper had a scare when Pereira’s in swinging corner sailed onto the top of the Millers net.
In an attempt to turn the tide of the tie, Richardson called for reinforcements in the shape of Sam Nombe, Rathbone and Tiehi, in a triple substitution.
The move seemed to have the desired effect with the Millers looking more comfortable in possession and Nombe almost nipped the pocket of Reed – as Fulham’s last man – but the home skipper redeemed himself with a last-gasp tackle on halfway.
Minutes later, Morrison’s long throw caused havoc in the Fulham box with Rodak forced to parry clear, although Hugill was penalised for a foul.
The hosts made a triple change of their own and Issa Diop side-footed wide following good work by Castagne.
To Rotherham’s credit, the game was still very much in the balance heading into the final stages and Rathbone had a shot blocked in stoppage time following Morrison’s long throw before sub Carlos Vinicius failed to make a counter attack count with a tame shot which was straight at Johansson.
Despite the Millers’ best efforts near the end, Fulham successfully ran down the clock to put their name in the fourth round hat.
Full-time: Fulham 1 Rotherham United 0
Rotherham United 0
Teams: Fulham- Rodak, Tete, Tosin, Diop, Castagne (Robinson 82), Reed (Cairney 73), Lukic, Wilson (Willian 73), Andreas (Francois 82), De Cordova-Reid, Muniz (Vinicius 73). Unused- Benda, De Fougerolles, Palhinha, Jimenez
Rotherham- Johansson, Lembikisa (Appiah 81), Bramall (Peltier 55), Eaves (Nombe 64), Cafu (Rathbone 64), Lindsay, Clucas (Tiehi 64), Hugill, Odoffin, Morrison, Revan. Unused- Phillips, Kelly, McGuckin, Bola.
Referee- S Hooper