Rotherham 1 v 3 Coventry City - Report
ROTHERHAM UNITED's play-off hopes took a blow as they suffered a disappointing 3-1 defeat at the hands of Coventry City.
Steve Evans' men slipped to back-to-back defeats after squandering a winning half-time position thanks to Joe Skarz's first goal for the club.
Despite the home side's first-half control, the game was turned on it's head with 20 minutes to go when skipper Craig Morgan was sent-off for a professional foul on Callum Wilson which paved the way for Carl
Baker to level matters from the spot.
With the game in the balance, Franck Moussa's deflected header saw the Sky Blues grab the lead but there was late drama deep in stoppage time when sub Michael O'Connor saw a late penalty saved by Joe
Murphy and home woes were compounded in the dying seconds when Adam Collin was caught upfield and Baker scored from just inside his own half into an unguarded net.
Following their disappointing defeat at the hands of Port Vale on Sunday, the Millers made three changes to their starting line-up with Mark Bradley making a welcome return at full-back following suspension as Claude Davis was unavailable due to his sending-off at Vale Park.
Rob Milsom and Lee Frecklington were recalled to the home engine room after shaking off injury and illness respectively as Michael O'Connor dropped to the bench while playmaker Ben Pringle was missing after picking up his fifth booking of the season in the Potteries defeat.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and Skarz floated a cross from the left flank which was met by the head of Alex Revell but his towering header cleared the crossbar.
However in the next phase of play, the visitors' were unfortunate not to have made the opening breakthrough when a switch of play saw Blair Adams cut inside from the left flank and after leaving Bradley in his wake with a clever dummy, he curled an effort which beat the outstretched hand of Adam Collin before smashing against the inside of the post before rolling tantalisingly across the box to safety.
In a frantic opening, Skarz fired an inviting centre which saw Revell tower above his marker to knock the ball into the path of Haris Vuckic, but Carl Baker was on-hand to snuff out the danger with a last-ditch tackle before the Slovenian turned architect moments later paving the way for Milsom to fire a rasping drive from distance which had Joe Murphy at full stretch with a smart save as the ball was arrowing towards the bottom corner of the goal.
The home side were turning up the heat and after Coventry failed to clear their lines decisively, the ball fell invitingly for Tavernier, who controlled smartly before unleashing a fantastic curling effort which brought the best out of Murphy with a superb finger tip save.
The duo were in the thick of the action moments later when Kari Arnason's hooked ball across the box saw the Newcastle loanee ghost in at the far post but his toe-poked goalbound effort was saved at point-blank range by the ex-Scunthorpe stopper.
The home side were looking the most likely and after the Sky Blues only half-cleared, Frecklington showed great skill to work a shooting position on the edge of the box and his controlled volley stung the palms of Murphy and from the rebound, James Tavernier struck a snap shot which took a slight deflection of Adams before striking the side netting.
From the resultant corner, Tavernier swung a delightful centre which presented Arnason with a great chance but the Icelandic international failed to make contact with a header despite the goal gaping.
Moments later, Skarz fired a low centre which saw Kieran Agard beat the offside trap but he agonisingly failed to make contact as the ball skimmed off the wet surface.
However just past the half-hour mark, the home side were finally rewarded for their pressure with the opening goal from an unexpected source.
After Andy Webster was penalised for climbing over Revell, the home side made them pay from the resultant free-kick when Tavernier's cleverly disguised delivery picked out Skarz, in acres of space and after controlling smartly, he swung a right-footed effort which took a deflection of a retreating defender before whistling past Murphy into the roof of the net.
The visitors' frustration was summed up when Blues chief Steven Pressley was ordered to watch the remainder of the game from the stands after showing his displeasure following the goal.
The home side were sniffing blood and Frecklington's reverse pass gave Tavernier another sight of goal but his poked effort was blocked by the legs of Murphy.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 1 Coventry City 0
Following the restart, the Millers' failed to recreate their first-half form and City gradually got a foothold in the contest paving the way for Cyrus Christie to cut inside before blasting over the bar in their first attack of note.
The home side had a stroke of fortune when a long ball forward saw Collin and Arnason at sixes and sevens and with neither failing to deal, Leon Clarke won his duel with the ex-Carlisle stopper and Baker shrugged off the attentions of O'Connor to curl an effort which narrowly flew over the unguarded net.
However, Rotherham failed to heed the warning as the game was turned on its head with 20 minutes remaining.
Baker's superb throughball saw Wilson get on the wrong side of Morgan and with the striker bearing down on goal, the Rotherham skipper tripped his heels and the referee had no hesitation in brandishing a red card to the Welshman.
Following consultation with the assistant referee, referee Gary Sutton overturned his original decision of awarding a free-kick on the edge of the box to point to the spot to add to home woes.
From the resultant penalty, Baker kept his nerve to strike into the bottom corner and after beating the outstretched dive of Collin, the ball struck the inside of the post before nestling in the net.
The sending-off prompted Evans to sacrifice Vuckic for the introduction of Pablo Mills into the back-four and City were initially kept at an arms length with Moussa's snap shot failing to trouble Collin.
However, City took the lead with five minutes remaining when Christie got the better of Agard on the left-flank and after cutting inside menacingly into the box, his curling effort brought a superb save out of Collin.
Rotherham's respite was only temporary though as from the resultant corner, Baker swung a tantalising centre and Moussa rose highest to power a header which seemed to strike a retreating defender before finding its way into the heart of the home goal.
With six minutes of stoppage time awarded, Rotherham had an opportunity to salvage a point in unlikely circumstances when Tavernier swung over an inviting free-kick and Arnason appeared to be towered over by a visiting defender and the assistant referee instructed the referee to point to the spot.
However, sub O'Connor fluffed his lines from the spot when Murphy guessed correctly to his well-struck penalty to parry the ball to safety.
Rotherham's day went from bad to worse seconds later when following a corner award, Collin was pushed upfield in a desperate attempt to salvage a point and when the visitors' cleared, Baker raced from his own box to latch onto the loose ball before firing a low drive from just inside his own half which was perfectly executed to squirm over the home line and condemn the Millers to defeat.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 1 Coventry City 3
Teams:- Rotherham- Collin, Bradley, Arnason, Morgan, Skarz, Agard, Frecklington, Milsom (O'Connor 62), Tavernier, Revell, Vuckic (Mills 72). Unused:- Shearer, Brindley, Worrall, Tubbs, Tidser.
Coventry- Murphy, Christie, Adams, Willis, Webster, Baker, Thomas (Barton 90), Daniels, Moussa (Phillips 89), Clarke, Wilson (Dagnall 78). Unused:- Haynes, Urqhart, Garner, Burge
Referee:- G Sutton
Attendance:- 9154 (1198)