Millers at the double.....
Rotherham United gave their Sky Bet Championship campaign a timely boost with a superb victory over Coventry City in a memorable evening under the AESSEAL New York Stadium lights.
Lee Peltier was a hero at both ends of the pitch when he headed the opening goal following Cafu’s corner before being part of a makeshift Rotherham defensive unit which was in no mood to relinquish their slender lead.
In stoppage time, Rotherham put the seal on a superb display when Ollie Rathbone fired home following good work by subs Seb Revan and Georgie Kelly.
The Millers returned to league action with the hosting of the Sky Blues after their weekend fixture with Ipswich Town fell victim to the weather.
Boss Matt Taylor made three changes to his starting line-up since the Millers’ last outing at Southampton.
Experienced centre-half Sean Morrison – who took on the skipper’s armband - was thrust back into first-team action following his own injury woes.
With Andre Green ruled out long-term following a training ground injury, Arvin Appiah was given the chance to impress with a rare start following some impressive substitute cameos.
Striker Jordan Hugill – who notched a superb equaliser at St Mary’s Stadium – led the Millers line with Sam Nombe named on the home bench.
The Millers were quick out of the blocks and following some impressive early touches by Appiah, Dexter Lembikisa had the first shot in anger with a long range effort which Ben Wilson smothered at full stretch.
At the other end, Peltier showed his vast experience with a timely clearance from near his own goal following good work by Jay Dasilva before Josh Eccles’ speculative effort from distance was straight down the throat of Viktor Johansson.
Minutes later, Cafu delivered a delicious free-kick which narrowly evaded Hugill and other Rotherham runners.
Both teams then traded good chances to break the deadlock.
Firstly, the Millers were indebted to Johansson for preserving parity when Sky Blues skipper Kyle McFadzean cleverly picked out Ellis Simms, who struck a fierce goalbound effort, but the Swedish stopper was his equal with a fine, reflex save.
Minutes later, Hugill worked a useful position in the left channel before delivering a pinpoint centre which was inch-perfect for the head of Fred Onyedinma – who had ghosted in front of his marker – but despite looking a likely scorer from just inside the six-yard box, the Luton loanee, disappointingly, failed to hit the target, as his bullet, point-blank header flashed past the upright.
Sky Blues’ midfielder Ben Sheaf then threatened on two occasions with long range strikes but Johansson was not called into action before Onyedinma’s cross was cut out by McFadzean at the other end.
The Millers had a couple of scares when firstly Dasilva clipped a lovely cross into the Millers box but Simms failed to get the ball under his spell and the chance was lost before Eccles flashed a shot narrowly over from the edge of the box.
In the last action of the first half, Morrison stuck out a timely leg to firstly prevent Simms getting his shot away before denying Matt Godden on the follow up.
Half-time: Rotherham United 0 Coventry City 0
Attacking their large travelling contingent, Mark Robins’ side started the second 45 with a positive intent but it was Rotherham – who had the first sight of goal – when Hugill’s snap shot was deflected behind following Rathbone’s pass.
Rathbone was inches away from meeting Appiah’s resultant corner before the home side forced another corner, minutes later, which paid dividends.
Cafu – often noted for his pinpoint set-piece deliveries – planted another excellent corner into the danger area and Peltier emerged from the masse of bodies in the box, to meet his cross and glance a close range header into the far corner of the goal.
The Sky Blues’ heads were still in a spin when Hugill latched onto a loose ball but dragged his low effort wide.
Despite their new found confidence, Rotherham’s joy almost proved short-lived with Johansson not for the first time coming to their rescue.
The Sky Blues attacked with menace but Peltier, this time, showed his defensive prowess with a superb last-ditch tackle on Yasin Ayari.
Coventry continued to press and Dasilva floated a lovely cross which saw Simms rise highest to plant a fierce header which brought the best of the Swedish international ‘keeper, who produced a top draw, reactive save, but with the ball still alive, Simms latched onto the rebound before smashing an effort into the side netting from close range.
The home stopper was in the thick of the action again to tip Sheaf’s dipping effort over his own bar before Godden was agonisingly close to making a telling connection from Ayari’s dangerous cross.
The Millers were looking for some much needed breathing space and they almost got it when sub Revan – in what may have been his first involvement – fizzed a low cross which was only half cleared by a Sky Blues defender, and Rathbone picked up the pieces before firing goalwards but Wilson kept the visitors in the game with a superb, diving save to his left.
The Millers came within a coat of paint of doubling their advantage when Lembikisa showed fleet of foot near the touchline with a sublime piece of skill to evade his marker before delivering a centre which was met by the head of Hugill, who cleverly guided his effort towards goal, but agonisingly it smashed against the upright before falling to safety.
In between the mayhem, Rotherham had a couple of cautions when Cafu and Lembikisa saw yellow.
With the home fans raising the decibel level inside the AESSEAL New York Stadium, the Millers had got a second wind and Hugill turned provider with a floated cross which Christ Tiehi, reactively, attempted to nod goalwards but his effort floated narrowly wide of the target before Onyedinma broke clear from a home counter-attack, but his tame effort – with his weaker left-foot – was diffused by Wilson.
Wilson was proving a vital last line of defence for the Sky Blues and he proved his worth again when Rathbone fired a stinging drive from distance, which the visiting ‘keeper was forced to turn over with another acrobatic save.
Taylor was forced into a change with a quarter of an hour to go when Peltier was withdrawn and Hakeem Odoffin was introduced into a makeshift centre-half position alongside Morrison.
Odoffin was tested straight away in a footrace with Simms but he was up to the task with a superb tackle before bravely blocking another shot soon after.
The Millers goal was threatened again when sub Tatsuhiro Sakamoto nodded narrowly wide of the target when he really should have done better.
The moment proved crucial when Rotherham put the seal on a brilliant display when they added a game clinching second goal in stoppage time.
Revan skipped to the touchline before delivering a centre which sub Kelly superbly cushioned into the path of Rathbone – who took aim with a powerful drive – and with the aid of a deflection, Wilson – this time – was powerless as the ball found the heart of the Coventry goal.
The final whistle saw three corners of the AESSEAL New York Stadium rise to their feet to salute their heroes after Taylor’s side shrugged off a host of long-term injuries – to earn a vital three points and reduce the gap to Championship safety to five points ahead of the South Yorkshire derby at the weekend.
Full-time: Rotherham United 2 Coventry City 0
Rotherham United 2
Coventry City 0
Teams: Rotherham- Johansson, Lembikisa, Bramall, Cafu (Clucas 87), Hugill (Kelly 87) , Onyedinma, Rathbone, Peltier (Odoffin 77), Morrison, Tiehi, Appiah (Revan 60). Unused- Phillips, Eaves, Nombe, McGuckin.
Coventry- Wilson, Binks, Dasilva, McFadzean (Thomas 76), Simms, Sheaf, Latibeaudiere (O’Hare 76), Godden (Wright 65), Ayari (Sakamoto 76), Van Ewijk, Eccles. Unused- Collins, Kitching, Bidwell, Lusala, Obikwu.
Referee- L Smith
Attendance- 10553 (2174)