Exciting game ends in narrow defeat...DESPITE an encouraging performance, Rotherham United were narrowly beaten by Championship outfit Middlesbrough as they came out on the wrong side of a five-goal thriller at the New York Stadium.
Following their last-gasp defeat at the hands of Huddersfield Town on Saturday, Steve Evans reshuffled his squad with recent signings David Worrall, Adam Collin, Richard Brindley and Rob Milsom given another chance to impress the home faithful.
Alex Revell was seemingly named to ply a lone foray upfront with Ben Pringle in support while Middlesbrough named a largely experimental line-up with the likes of Grant Leadbitter and Marvin Emnes among the ten substitutes listed by Tony Mowbray.
The Millers’ had the first sight of goal when Icelandic international Kari Arnason intercepted on halfway before firing a rasping effort which was deflected behind by Ben Gibson.
Michael O’Connor then floated a free-kick which saw Claude Davis climb highest to loop a header goalwards and after Ross Turnbull failed to punch clear, Worrall fired a snap shot which was blocked by the ruck of bodies in the goalmouth.
However, Middlesbrough stunned the home fans by breaking the deadlock with their first attack of note on 16 minutes.
After Brindley hacked down Andy Halliday just outside the box, from the resultant free-kick, Richard Smallwood fizzed a dangerous centre which saw Gibson rise highest to guide a header from point-blank range into the heart of the home goal giving Collin no chance.
However, the Millers’ were given an opportunity to level matters with a penalty award by World Cup referee Howard Webb.
Pringle floated a tantalising corner and although Middlesbrough seemingly cleared the danger, referee Webb had spotted a shirt pull on Davis in the box by Smallwood and to the visitors’ amazement had pointed to the spot.
O’Connor made no mistake from the resultant penalty when he wrongfooted ex-Chelsea ‘keeper Ross Turnbull to find the bottom corner of the goal.
The game was literally turned on its head moments later when Rotherham took the lead thanks to a swift counter.
There looked little danger for ‘Boro until a threaded ball found Revell in space and as the visitors’ defence parted, the Millers’ striker advanced with menace to the edge of the box before sliding the ball calmly past Turnbull with a minimum of fuss.
Just prior to the half-hour mark, Cameron Park fired a skimming drive from distance which stung the palms of Collin, who spilled the ball initially but the ex-Carlisle stopper recovered his ground before the onrushing Faris Haroun could capitalise.
Just prior to half-time, sub Kieran Agard almost got in between the visitors’ defence and Turnbull but his toe-poked effort was blocked by the stopper before good interplay between Emmanuel Ledesma and Richard Smallwood paved the way for Halliday to break clear at the other end but Collin blocked his effort.
However, Middlesbrough found themselves on level terms with the interval looming. Following a switch of play by the visitors’, a perfectly-timed through ball saw Faris Haroun break the offside trap and with no home defender in sight, he calmly deceived Collin with a clever step-over before sliding the ball into the unguarded net.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 2 Middlesbrough 2
Following the restart, ‘Boro made a trio of changes and they had the first sight of goal when sub Lukas Jutkiewicz struck goalwards and Craig Morgan’s miscued clearance had Collin backtracking nervously but it cleared the bar.
At the other end, the Millers’ had a half shout for another spot kick when Agard got on the wrong side of sub Rhys Williams, who recovered with a sliding tackle which saw the home striker tumble but referee Webb adjudged the challenge to be a legitimate one before Morgan headed over from O’Connor’s set-piece in the next phase of play.
The Millers’ then had Collin to thank for maintaining the status quo when Jutkiewicz outmuscled Davis for possession and with the Jamaican being the last-man, Adam Reach pounced on the loose ball to race clear but despite giving the Rotherham ‘keeper the eyes, Collin anticipated his strike and he smartly parried the ball to safety.
Just past the hour mark, Morgan’s arrowed ball saw Revell head the ball into the path of Agard, who shrugged off the attentions of Williams, before hooking the ball goalwards but England U21 ‘keeper Jason Steele stood up tall to block his effort.
However, Middlesbrough regained the lead on 62 minutes with Rotherham appealing for an offside flag which never came.
There looked little danger on halfway but Jutkiewicz ghosted away from his marker to the right flank and a timely throughball bisected the home defence which had stepped up and with half-hearted appeals for offside from players and home fans alike, Jutkiewicz kept his composure to calmly round Collin before sliding the ball into the empty net.
However, the Millers’ responded well to the setback and Pringle’s timely pass released Agard, who got the better of Reach but again Steele was on-hand to block his scuffed effort.
Agard was being a menace to the ‘Boro backline and after robbing Christian Burgess of possession, his pullback paved the way for Pringle to swing a floated centre which narrowly evaded the attentions of Revell before a carbon-copy move moments later saw Revell fall under the challenge of Reach from another tantalising centre from Pringle, but referee Webb waved away home appeals for a second spot kick.
With ten minutes to go, Rotherham came within a whisker of an equaliser when Pringle swung a delightful centre which was met by the head of Revell, whose downward header looked destined to level matters but Steele pulled off a fantastic save low to his left to preserve the visitors’ lead.
Steele was single-handedly keeping the Millers’ at bay and Pringle released Agard, who cleverly left Williams on his heels, before drilling a low effort which was arrowing to the bottom corner until Steele’s late intervention which turned the ball around the post.
The home side finally got the better of Steele when Pringle’s threaded ball found sub Danny Hylton, who dinked the ball over the visitors’ keeper, but unfortunately a retreating defender was on-hand to clear the danger, as ‘Boro held on to edge out the hosts.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 Middlesbrough 3
Rotherham- Collin, Brindley (Bradley 66), Skarz, Arnason (Tidser 58), Davis, Worrall (Agard 34), Revell (Hylton 82), O’Connor (Noble 58), Milsom (Rose 66), Pringle, Morgan. Subs:- Thompson.
Middlesbrough- Turnbull (Steele HT), Bennett, Halliday (Brobbel 64), Gibson (Williams HT), Burgess, Park, Reach, Ledesma, Dolan (Morris 65), Smallwood, Haroun (Jutkiewicz HT). Subs:- Leadbitter, Emnes, Carayol, Whitehead, Parnaby, Varga.
Referee:- Howard Webb
Attendance:- 2143 (271)