REPORT | Birmingham City 4 v 2 Rotherham
GOALS from Danny Ward and Jon Taylor either side of the interval were in vain as the Millers were beaten 4-2 at Birmingham City.
Michael Morrison opened the scoring for the Blues and although Ward levelled matters with a smart finish, Lukas Jutkiewicz restored the West Midlanders advantage just minutes later.
Jacques Maghoma added a third just before the break for the home side and although Jon Taylor gave the Millers hope, David Cotterill struck from the spot late on to leave Alan Stubbs’ men empty-handed.
Following their weekend defeat at the hands of Norwich City, the Millers made three changes to their starting line-up for the trip to England’s second city.
Stephen Kelly returned to the right-back slot at the expense of Greg Halford while experienced centre-half Kelvin Wilson partnered Dominic Ball at the heart of the Rotherham rearguard as Dael Fry missed out.
Brighton loanee Jake Forster-Caskey was given an opportunity to impress in the visitors’ engine room as Joe Newell had to settle for a substitutes berth alongside Carrow Road goalscorer Dexter Blackstock.
The hosts were quick out of the blocks and Ball had to be on his toes with a timely tackle to snuff out Donaldson before Cotterill worked a yard of space to deliver a delicate cross which saw Donaldson’s header clear the Millers crossbar.
Minutes later, Cotterill again posed a threat on the right flank to deliver another tantalising centre which paved the way for Jutkiewicz power a header which failed to trouble the visitors goal before Wilson showed great awareness to clear the danger, in the Blues next foray, as Cotterill looked to tap home from close range after Jutkiewicz’s knock down.
In the home side’s next attack, Maghoma ran hard at the Millers defence but Stephen Kelly recovered smartly to prevent the ex-Wednesday winger from taking aim towards goal before the Millers had to reshuffle the pack as Wilson had to be withdrawn from the action following a knock with Greg Halford entering the fray.
With the Millers still looking to reorganise, the home side were rewarded for their early pressure when Jonathan Grounds cut inside from the right flank to plant a hanging cross which saw home skipper Morrison tower above his marker to loop a header which beat the attentions of Lee Camp to find the far corner of the net.
Moments later, Jutkiewicz drilled a low effort which was smothered bv Camp before Will Vaulks had Rotherham’s first effort of note with a stinging drive from distance which forced Adam Legzdins into a smart save.
Just before the half hour mark, the Millers failed to deal with Cotterill’s free-kick and Grounds fired a snap shot towards goal but his effort was blocked by a retreating defender before Izzy Brown launched a lightning counter for the Millers as Taylor delivered an inviting cross which saw Ward nip infront of his marker but the ex-Huddersfield striker was unable to turn the ball towards goal.
However, Ward was in the thick of the action and he soon levelled matters following a superb Millers move.
Following a switch of play, Halford showed fleet of foot to cut inside from the right flank to plant a ball across the box and Forster-Caskey showed his class with a clever step over to give Ward, a glimpse of goal, and he made no mistake with a measured effort from the edge of the box which beat the outstretched hand of Legzdins to find the bottom corner of the net.
However, Rotherham’s joy proved short lived as Birmingham regained the lead within a matter of minutes as Cotterill got the better of his marker to deliver a cross which saw Jutkiewicz outmuscle his marker to head home from just inside the six-yard box giving Camp no chance.
Just shy of the interval, the Millers were given a mountain to climb as the home side added a third when Maghoma pounced on the loose ball to drive hard at the retreating visitors’ backline and the Blues winger cut inside before smashing a fierce effort from the edge of the box which flew into the heart of the Millers goal.
Half-time:- Birmingham City 3 Rotherham United 1
Following the interval, Darnell Fisher became the first to see yellow for dissent before the Millers grabbed a foothold back into the game when Will Vaulks punted a ball into the box and Ward knocked the ball down into the path of Taylor, who calmly stabbed home from point-blank range.
The Millers were visibly lifted by the goal and Ward’s assist presented Brown with the opportunity of striking goalwards from the edge of the box but Legzdins punched the ball to safety before the home ‘keeper was again called into action, minutes later, when Taylor’s low free-kick flew through a ruck of bodies but Legzdins kept his nerve to collect smartly on his own line.
Moments later, Taylor was the architect of another Millers move with an incisive cross which saw Lee Frecklington nip in front of his marker to glance a header which was straight down the throat of Legzdins.
The visitors had a spring in their step and following pinball in and around the Blues box, Frecklington had a shot blocked en-route to goal before Halford volleyed harmlessly wide of the target.
In a rare attack by the home side, sub Che Adams almost made an immediate impression from the bench when he cut inside with menace to strike an effort which flew narrowly wide of the target before Ball became the next to see yellow for clipping Cotterill in full flow.
With seven minutes to go, any Millers’ hopes of a comeback were extinguished when Ball hesitated in the box and Adams pounced on the loose ball before tumbling over the challenge of Camp and the referee pointed to the spot.
From the resultant spot-kick, Cotterill made no mistake from 12 yards when he struck a fierce effort and despite Camp diving the right way, the ball found the corner of the net.
The Millers fought to the end and in the dying minutes, Ward blasted over from a promising position as Rotherham were left searching for their first away point of the season.
Full-time:- Birmingham City 4 Rotherham United 2
Birmingham City 4
Rotherham United 2
Teams:- Birmingham- Legzdins, Grounds, Shotton, Kieftenbeld, Gleeson, Donaldson (Adams 73), Cotterill (Robinson 86), Jutkiewicz (R Brown 64), Maghoma, Spector, Morrison. Unused- Kuszczak, Fabbrini, Wiggins, Stewart
Rotherham- Camp, Kelly, Vaulks (Blackstock 84), Frecklington, Ward, Forster-Caskey, Taylor, Ball, Wilson (Halford 14), Fisher, I Brown. Unused- Price, Mattock, Forde, Allan, Newell.
Referee- Chris Kavanagh
Attendance:- 16404 (272).