Cruel defeat for Millers....
Rotherham United suffered last-gasp heartache as Bristol City’s Tommy Conway made a superb impact from the bench with a timely brace, including a stoppage-time winner.
Tyler Blackett’s first goal in Millers colours looked to have salvaged a point for the home side after Conway’s opener, but with Blackett forced off the field with injury after Rotherham had used their full complement of substitutes, the game had another cruel twist when Conway popped up again.
Following their weekend reversal at the hands of Cardiff City last time out, Millers boss Matt Taylor was given a double boost prior to the televised visit of the Robins.
Experienced centre-half Lee Peltier made a welcome return to the home backline following his short cameo at the Cardiff City Stadium after a spell out with injury while Portuguese playmaker Cafu was also available, once again, after a hamstring complaint.
Taylor was able to return to his favoured 4-3-3 formation while Sam Clucas and Seb Revan were the players to miss out. Another centre-half Grant Hall was fit enough to make the bench after being unavailable for the whole campaign to date.
The Millers made a lively start when firstly Ollie Rathbone and Andre Green combined smartly before the former looked to burst towards the Robins box before being felled by Joe Williams in an inviting position on the edge of the box.
Nevertheless, Cohen Bramall failed to punish the visitors from the resultant free-kick when his rising effort cleared the crossbar.
Minutes later, Jordan Hugill had a shot blocked en-route to goal before Rob Dickie had to bravely divert Dexter Lembikisa’s delicate cross to safety at the far post.
In the next phase of play, Williams’ errant pass was intercepted by Green, who embarked on a direct run before firing over with his weaker left-foot.
The visitors appeared to have taken the sting out of the Millers’ early momentum until Blackett’s clip into the channel paved the way for Hugill to initially get the better of Dickie with a lovely bit of skill before losing his footing under the challenge of the City defender – just inside the box – but the referee waved away Hugill’s protestations for a spot kick.
Skipper Matty James had City’s first shot in anger with an ambitious effort from distance before Rotherham threatened again when Bramall curled a centre into the box and Hugill won his aerial duel to nod back across goal where Green was looking to pounce from just yards out but a timely foot from a retreating Robins defender denied him.
There was a scare for the Millers when Harry Cornick’s long throw caused havoc in the home rearguard and in-form Sam Bell almost turned the ball home at the far post but Viktor Johansson clawed away his scuffed point-blank effort.
Moments later, Kal Naismith delivered a teasing corner which gave Mark Sykes a glimpse of goal but he was unable to test Johansson due to a tight angle and a slight Rotherham deflection.
There was a momentary pause in play as all four corners of the ground stood up for a minute’s applause, in support of former Millers ‘keeper Josh Vickers.
The home side came close to the breakthrough when firstly Bramall skipped around the back to fizz a lovely ball across goal which Hugill looked set to tap home but Naismith came out of nowhere with a goal saving intervention before City ‘keeper Max O’Leary was called into action to deny Green, before an offside award released the pressure on the visitors.
The Millers continued to press and Bramall again showed his pace to dart down the left-flank once again before delivering a cross which was met by the head of Fred Onyedinma but the Luton loanee could not control his header, as it flew over the visitors’ bar.
In the last noteworthy action of the half, Rathbone became the first player to be cautioned.
Half-time: Rotherham United 0 Bristol City 0
The Millers – now attacking the KCM Waste Management Stand - almost made the perfect start to the second 45 when Onyedinma got a long ball under his spell before Hugill drilled a low effort into the bottom corner of the Robins net, but the whistle had long gone, and any home celebrations were soon cut short.
There was very little to report until Christ Tiehi put in a timely block to prevent Cornick from shooting goalwards before the same player looked odds on to meet Bell’s centre – just yards out from goal - but his headed effort failed to trouble the target.
Hugill showed his never-say-die spirit to win a corner against all the odds but Cafu – in his last involvement – saw his centre cleared before Taylor decided to withdraw both Cafu and Peltier, on their return from injury, on the hour mark.
One of the replacements, Hall, was forced into immediate action to block Bell’s cross at close quarters.
Both sides traded chances when Williams clipped an effort from the edge of the box which Johansson plucked out of the Rotherham sky with ease before Onyedinma headed wide from Rathbone’s free-kick at the other end.
Taylor made a further change when Hugill - who was given a generous hand from the home faithful – was replaced by Sam Nombe.
There was a little panic in the Millers box when Johansson and Bramall collided, as both players looked to diffuse a City attack, but it did not come to anything.
Both sides made further changes when Bramall was withdrawn due to injury while Arvin Appiah was also introduced.
The game sprang to life with nine minutes to go when one of those subs, Conway, most likely with his first touch got on the end of a long punt forward which Rotherham failed to deal with decisively, and the City substitute teased and tormented his marker before cutting inside and firing a fierce effort which flew past the outstretched hand of Johansson to find the bottom corner of the Millers net.
Nevertheless, City’s joy proved short-lived when Rotherham equalised five minutes later.
The Millers forced a corner and in the aftermath of the resultant centre, Appiah injected pace back into the move with a darting run – and the Millers winger then kept his nerve to pick out an unmarked Blackett, who calmly fired goalwards from a central position and despite the last ditch efforts of O’Leary, the ball found the heart of the City goal.
The Millers were now the team in the ascendancy – with the home fans in full voice – and Nombe had a long range effort blocked before crosses from either flank were headed clear.
There was a moment of controversy when Blackett – was out of the game with injury – but the game was not stopped and two City subs combined when Nahki Wells found Andreas Weimann, but thankfully for the Millers, Johansson was well-stationed to keep his goalbound effort out.
The Millers were forced to play the remaining minutes with ten men with Blackett unable to continue and having used their substitutions - it proved crucial as City hit the Millers with a sucker punch deep in stoppage time.
The visitors switched play to great effect and Andy King delivered a telling cross and Conway showed great technique with a delicate volley from close range to steer the ball past the attentions of Johansson and find the bottom corner of the home goal.
The defeat was cruel on the Millers, who still lie second from bottom of the Sky Bet Championship, having lost four out of their last five matches.
Full-time: Rotherham United 1 Bristol City 2
Rotherham United 1
Bristol City 2
Teams: Rotherham- Johansson, Lembikisa, Bramall (Revan 80), Blackett, Cafu (Clucas 62), Hugill (Nombe 74), Green (Appiah 80), Onyedinma, Rathbone, Peltier (Hall 62), Tiehi. Unused- Phillips, Eaves, Kelly, McGuckin.
Bristol City- O’Leary, Pring, Naismith, James, Williams (King 79), Cornick (Wells 66), Knight (Conway 79), Dickie, Sykes (Weimann 66), Bell (Roberts 85), Gardner-Hickman. Unused- Bajic, Mehmeti, Yeboah, Nelson.
Referee- D Whitestone