Plymouth 0 v 1 Rotherham - ReportThe Millers edged themselves closer to promotion with a 1-0 win over Plymouth Argyle at Home Park to make it four consecutive wins in nPower League Two.
Kieran Agard made it three goals in as many games as he became the hero by scoring the only goal of the game in a tightly contested encounter in Devon.
Steve Evans opted to retain the same starting eleven that earned a vital 2-0 win over Bradford City in West Yorkshire on Tuesday night, with David Noble and Daniel Nardiello returning to the bench in place of Mitchell Rose.
The hosts were still looking to cement their place in nPower League Two going into Saturday’s game despite being four points clear of the drop zone at the start of the fixture and started the first half brightly.
Onismor Bhasera’s fashioned the first chance of the game with his neat run and cross from the left-hand side that required a stern Claude Davis clearance to ensure former Millers frontman Reuben Reid was denied an early sight of Scott Shearer’s goal.
John Sheridan’s arrival in Devon has seen the Pilgrims adopt a much more attacking approach and this was evident when Joe Bryan’s deep free-kick was attacked by a host of Argyle players, only to whistle past a stretching Curtis Nelson at the back post.
Kari Arnason enjoyed a two year spell at Home Park and became renowned for his ability to shoot from distance. The Icelandic midfielder tried to emulate that feat in Millers colours with his shot from distance on eight minutes, but his speculative effort went harmlessly wide of the target.
The hosts might have taken the lead on 25 minutes had Paris Cowan-Hall’s intricate through ball not evaded Andres Gurrieri’s charge into the box and been claimed by the onrushing Shearer, who did well to claim the ball on the penalty spot and avert the danger.
Evans’ men seemed to settle into the game as the first half progressed and managed to test Jake Cole five minutes before the break. A tireless run from Agard earned the Millers a free-kick 25 yards from goal which resulted in Plymouth stopper making an astute save from Michael O’Connor’s curling effort.
The best chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to the Millers a minute before it was scheduled to end when Ben Pringle’s cushioned header picked out an unmarked Lee Frecklington in the box, who was denied by a magnificent save by Cole at his near post.
The visitors tried to break the deadlock once more in the dying seconds when O’Connor laid off a free-kick to Arnason 20 yards from goal who saw his low piledriver well blocked by a disciplined Argyle wall.
Half-time: Plymouth Argyle 0 v 0 Millers
The Millers started the second half with the same attacking intensity they had established in the minutes prior to the break and almost took the lead immediately after the restart. Their first opportunity arose when a long Arnason throw from the right was helped on to Agard by Revell who received the ball back from the winger, before unleashing a shot which whistled inches wide of the far post.
Evans’ men continued to press and came close again after Arnason gave Pringle the ball in a central position, before the midfielder’s pinpoint cross found Agard in the area who headed just wide of Cole’s goal from ten yards.
However, the hosts threatened when the dangerous Bhasera reached the byline on the left flank, before delivering a teasing cross that ex-Millers frontman Reid headed narrowly wide.
Reid, who topped the goalscoring charts during his time with the Millers at Don Valley, continued to look menacing in front of goal and came close again seconds later when another mazy run and cross by Bhasera saw him evade the challenge of O’Connor, before finding Reid in the area who failed to hit the target from 12 yards following a clever dummy by Gurrieri.
Bhasera and Bryan combined well on numerous occasions to deliver a series of crosses from the left that the Millers defence had to be alert to deal with. The most telling of these came on 68 minutes when Bryan’s deep centre narrowly overshot Nelson on the back post who had risen above Craig Morgan.
The visitors did break the deadlock on 75 minutes when Joe Skarz delivered a deep free-kick towards the far post, where Johnny Mullins knocked the ball down into the path of Agard who applied the finish from close range to fuel the Millers promotion push and send the travelling supporters into raptures.
Evans’ side did not sit back despite their advantage and came close to doubling the lead when a marauding run by Frecklington down the left saw him deliver a delightful ball across the face of goal but an absence of red shirts in the box saw the ball run harmlessly clear.
Plymouth almost hit back through an unlikely source when centre-back Conor Hourihane found himself with time in the area, only to skew his effort well wide following a neat touch from Ronan Murray.
Hourihane was made to rue another missed chance just seconds later when he found himself in a similar position but once again failed to hit the target for the second time in as many minutes.
The hosts launched a barrage of attacks in the dying minutes with the most notable coming in the form of a goalmouth scramble that saw no fewer than four blocks from Millers players inside the 18-yard area with the best opportunity falling to Max Blanchard on the edge of the area.
However, the Millers defended stubbornly and did enough to ensure they returned to South Yorkshire with a clean sheet and all three points.
Full-time: Plymouth Argyle 0 v 1 Millers
Millers: Shearer, Mullins ©, Davis, Morgan, Skarz, Agard, O’Connor, Arnason, Frecklington, (Ridehalgh 87), Pringle, Revell (Odejayi 90).
Unused: Warrington, Tonge, Ainsworth, Nardiello, Noble.
Plymouth Argyle: Cole, Blanchard, Branston, Hourihane ©, Cowane-Hall (Murray 51), Bhasera, Wotton, Nelson, (Chadwick 79), Bryan, Reid, (Harvey 81) Gurrieri.
Unused: Gilmartin, Berry, Young, Charles.
Words: Sam Todd