Rotherham 2 v 1 Stevenage - Report
ROTHERHAM UNITED kept the pressure on the League One frontrunners with a last-gasp victory over plucky Stevenage.
Wes Thomas put the Millers in front at the interval with his second goal in as many games but Francois Zoko looked to have earned the basement club a deserved point with an equaliser near the end.
However, skipper Lee Frecklington led from the front as he broke visiting hearts’ with a well-taken strike just two minutes later to send the New York Stadium into raptures.
The Millers returned to action following a fortnight’s break because of the inclement weather by retaining an unchanged starting line-up after their late victory over high-flying Leyton Orient.
Recent recruit Nicky Adams was named amongst the home substitutes for his Millers bow with gaffer Steve Evans blessed with attacking options from the bench.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and after Alex Revell earned a free-kick award, Ben Pringle struck a curling effort from distance which stung the palms of Chris Day.
Minutes later, James Tavernier floated a harmless cross across the face of goal before Claude Davis was well-stationed to snuff out the danger as Lucas Akins got the better of Tavernier at the other end.
Just past the quarter hour, Akins again left Tavernier in his wake before floating a delicate cross which saw ex-Millers trialist Francois Zoko rise highest but his downward header was straight down the throat of Adam Collin.
Minutes later, Tavernier’s slide-ruled pass saw Pringle evade the sliding challenge of Jon Ashton to race down the left flank and his tantalising cross saw Revell nip infront of his marker to cleverly flick the ball goalwards but Chris Day was alert to parry the ball over his bar.
Just shy of the half-hour mark, Revell dragged a shot harmlessly wide of the target before Kieran Agard was the first to see yellow when he needlessly prevented the visitors’ taking a quick free-kick deep inside their own half.
Minutes later, Kari Arnason was left exposed one-on-one with Zoko but the striker was firstly denied by the Icelandic international before scuffing the rebound strike as Rotherham cleared the danger.
The visitors were arguably looking the most likely and the home side had Agard to thank for preventing the lively Luke Freeman from striking goalwards after a one-two with Darius Charles had split open the home defence.
However, the home side stunned the visitors’ by breaking the deadlock four minutes before the break.
Tavernier’s long punt upfield saw Revell challenge strongly with Day and Thomas’ had the goal at his mercy on the rebound but his screwed effort was blocked before Agard looked a certain scorer but again his strike was blocked bravely by a retreating Freeman.
However, Stevenage’s escape proved short-lived as Mark Bradley drilled the ball back into the box and Thomas, who looked in an offside position, kept his nerve to calmly stroke the ball into the net giving Day no chance.
The visitors rallied strongly and the Millers had Collin to thank for preserving their lead at the break when the ex-Carlisle stopper made a superb point-blank reflex save after Zoko ghosted in unnoticed to power a goalbound header.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 1 Stevenage 0
Seconds after the restart, Zoko again had the home side backtracking but his snap effort from an acute angle failed to trouble Collin.
The home side were struggling to find their rhythm and they had a lucky escape when Filipe Morais’ dangerous cross saw Arnason’s attempted clearance narrowly clear his own crossbar.
Minutes later, Simon Heslop had an effort deflected over following a period of pressure from the visitors before Agard’s fizzed cross was controlled smartly by Revell, who fired goalwards forcing Day to take evasive action to keep the ball out at the other end.
Just short of the hour mark, Rotherham failed to clear a long-throw from Akins and Freeman showed fleet of foot to work a shooting position but he dragged his effort wide.
At the other end, Tavernier intercepted a crossfield pass from Peter Hartley to release Pringle, who delivered a fantastic cross which was met by the head of Thomas, but he couldn’t control his effort as it looped over the bar.
With the game in the balance, Tavernier was cautioned for hacking down Roarie Deacon before Ashton soon joined him in the referee’s book for a clumsy foul in the next phase of play.
The visitors came within a whisker of the equaliser when clever interplay on the edge of the box saw Heslop bear down on goal but Arnason came out of nowhere with a superb sliding challenge to retain Rotherham’s slender lead.
However, Stevenage were finally rewarded for their pressure when they got back on level terms when Jimmy Smith’s centre was flicked on into the path of Zoko, who controlled smartly before firing into the corner of the net.
However, the visitors’ joy proved short-lived though as Rotherham regained the lead just two minutes later thanks to skipper Frecklington.
Following a ball forward, sub Haris Vuckic injected pace into the move to play the ball into the path of Frecklington, who weighed up his options before curling a fantastic effort which beat the outstretched hand of Day before nestling into the bottom corner of the net.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 Stevenage 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Bradley, Arnason, Davis (Addison 71), Tavernier, Agard, Smallwood, Frecklington, Pringle, Revell (Vuckic 71), Thomas (Adams 80). Unused:- Shearer, Skarz, O’Connor, Hitchcock.
Stevenage:- Day, Ashton, Morais (Parrett 69), Mousinho, Charles (Deacon 68), Akins, Zoko, Heslop (Burrow 83), Freeman, Smith, Hartley. Unused:- Arnold, Wedgbury, Jones, N’Guessan.
Referee:- Scott Mathieson (Walsall)
Attendance:- 7393 (190).