Millers overcome third place Robins...Rotherham United bounced back to winning ways as they brushed aside the challenge of Cheltenham Town in a six-goal thriller.
In a breathtaking opening, Keith Lowe stunned the home side with the breakthrough with just seconds on the clock before Lee Frecklington, Ben Pringle and Daniel Nardiello turned the game on it’s head to give Rotherham a two-goal cushion.
Chris Zebroski reduced the arrears in a pulsating first-half to give the visitors hope but Rotherham secured the victory in second-half stoppage time when Frecklington notched his second of the afternoon.
Following their disappointing defeat at the hands of Dagenham last week, Steve Evans rang the changes with Jason Taylor and Nardiello returning to the starting line-up at the expense of Michael O’Connor and Kayode Odejayi, who dropped to the bench.
Teenager Courtney Cameron was handed his first ever league start following his loan signing from Aston Villa last week while local youngster Nicky Walker was given his first squad berth following some encouraging performances with the reserve team.
The visitors were quick out of the blocks and they shellshocked the home side by taking the lead after just 54 seconds.
After forcing an early corner, Billy Jones swung a delightful centre and Lowe ghosted in unmarked between a ruck of bodies to sweep the ball into the heart of the goal giving Andy Warrington no chance.
The Millers’ responded bravely and Cameron showed fleet of foot to work a yard of space on Lowe before swinging a centre which found Nardiello at the far post but from an acute angle, he could only fire into the side netting.
However, the visitors’ failed to heed the warning as the Millers were soon on level terms on four minutes when Cameron showed great skill to evade the attentions of Lowe to skip to the byline before floating a centre which saw Alex Revell challenge with Scott Brown and the ball fell invitingly into the path of Nardiello, who headed into the roof of the net from point-blank range.
The home side were buoyed by the equaliser and Frecklington’s clever reverse pass gave Pringle the opportunity to attack with menace before firing a rasping shot from distance which failed to trouble Brown.
Minutes later, there looked little danger when Frecklington picked up possession on halfway but the Peterborough loanee embarked on a mazy dribble which had the Cheltenham rearguard on it’s heels paving the way for a fierce drive which had Brown nervously scurrying across goal.
The Millers were looking the most likely and they deservedly took the lead when the visitors’ failed to clear their lines and Pringle pounced on the loose ball before calmly working a shooting position to drill a low effort which beat the outstretched hand of Brown before nestling in the far corner of the goal.
The Millers were running riot at this stage and they added a third on 29 minutes following a period of pressure.
Following the breakdown of a home attack, Frecklington showed clever skill to avert a quick visitors’ counter attack giving Craig Morgan the opportunity to clear the danger.
The big centre-half floated a ball forward which beat the jump of a Cheltenham defender and Naridello showed great poise to control the ball with a minimum of fuss before evading the last ditch tackle of Alan Bennett and slotting the ball past the advancing Brown.
However, the Millers ‘ two-goal advantage didn’t last long as Cheltenham reduced the arrears two minutes later.
Following an eye-of-a-needle throughball from Marlon Pack, Jermaine McGlashan drew the attentions of Warrington before sliding an inviting ball across the face of the goal goal giving Zebroski the simple task of tapping home into the unguarded net.
In a breathless encounter, Rotherham then turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye with Pringle leading the charge and his slide-rule ball saw Revell cut inside before striking a left-footed effort which struck the outside of the post.
The Millers were forced into a reshuffle just shy of the interval when Morgan fell awkwardly following a tackle and he had to be replaced by O’Connor, with Taylor being withdrawn into an unfamiliar centre-half position.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 3 Cheltenham Town 2
Following a quiet start to the second stanza, O’Connor was yellow-carded for a rash tackle on Darren Carter before Cheltenham made a double substitution with former Millers’ loanee Shaun Harrad entering the fray.
Just past the hour mark, Revell almost got on the end of a mouthwatering centre from Cameron before Revell’s chip forward moments later gave Nardiello a sight of goal but despite ‘keeper Brown being in no-man’s land, his delicate effort blazed over the crossbar.
Minutes later, Pack was shown yellow for hauling down Frecklington in full flow before Nardiello pounced on some defensive hesitation to fire a snap shot which was comfortably gathered by Brown.
In the visitors’ first foray of the second-half, sub Jeff Goulding rose highest from Lowe’s bullet-like throw but his flicked header cleared the crossbar.
At the other end, Freckington fired a shot from distance which took a wicked deflection of a retreating defender but Brown was well-stationed to make a smart save.
With fifteen minutes remaining, McGlashan found himself in the book after kicking the ball away needlessly before he was substituted.
The visitors’ came within a whisker of the equaliser when sub Sam Deering swung a tantalising centre which was knocked down into the path of Harrad, who looked a certain scorer but skipper Ian Sharps made a heroic block to preserve Rotherham’s slender lead.
Deering then tried his luck from distance but he failed to trouble Warrington before O’Connor saw his instinctive effort blocked at the other end.
In stoppage time, Rotherham eased their nerves with their fourth goal of the afternoon.
As Cheltenham failed to clear decisively, Pringle threaded a clever ball into the advancing run of Frecklington, who kept his composure to slide the ball past Brown.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 4 Cheltenham Town 2.
Rotherham- Warrington, Bradley, Sharps, Morgan (O’Connor 43), Morris, Pringle, Taylor, Frecklington, Cameron (Walker 90), Revell, Nardiello (Odejayi 84). Unused:- Thompson, Evans, Rose, Rooney.
Cheltenham- Brown, Lowe, Jones, Bennett, Elliott, Carter, Pack, Penn (Goulding 59), McGlashan (Deering 80), Mohamed (Harrad 59), Zebroski. Unused:- Roberts, Duffy, Andrew, Hanks
Attendance:- 6,705 (311)