REPORT | Bristol City 1 v 0 Rotherham
BOSNIAN international Milan Djuric broke Millers hearts with a late header for Bristol City as Rotherham United returned home empty-handed despite a battling display at Ashton Gate.
Following an even first half, the Millers looked on course to earn at least a share of the spoils before Djuric popped up with the winner- his first goal for the hosts.
Following their midweek reversal at the hands of Nottingham Forest, the Millers made two changes for their trip to Ashton Gate.
New signing Ben Purrington was handed his Rotherham debut following his January arrival from Plymouth Argyle. Subsequently, Joe Mattock was asked to play in a more advanced role on the left flank as Joe Newell reverted to a central midfield position in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Dynamic winger Jon Taylor had to settle for a place on the visitors’ bench while Cardiff loanee Tom Adeyemi was unavailable because of injury.
Between the sticks, Richard O’Donnell lined up against his former club while for the hosts, former Bristol Rovers striker Matty Taylor was on the Robins bench after making a cross-city switch on transfer deadline day.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Will Vaulks tried his luck from long range but home skipper Bailey Wright blocked his shot en-route to goal.
Moments later, Mattock’s cross was handled by Mark Little and from the resultant free-kick, Anthony Forde curled a tantalising centre which was cleared from near his own line by Tammy Abraham before Newell had a low shot blocked by a ruck of home bodies in the box.
At the other end, Welsh international David Cotterill swung an inviting free-kick which saw Aden Flint emerge from the pack to plant a downward header which forced O’Donnell into a smart parried save.
Moments later, Vaulks dwelt in possession on the edge of the box before Jens Hegeler and Abraham exchanged passes but O’Donnell was on his toes to snuff out the danger.
In the next phase of play, Cotterill caught the Millers’ napping from a corner with a pullback to Lee Tomlin, who slashed at thin air initially before getting another bite of the cherry but Purrington bravely threw his body in the way of his shot before Abraham missed a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring when he latched onto Wright’s knockdown but despite having the goal at his mercy, the Chelsea loanee’s measured finish failed to trouble O’Donnell.
Just past the quarter hour, Anthony Forde’s pass inside side paved the way for Newell to advance with menace before playing a slide-rule pass into the path of Danny Ward, who nipped infront of his marker to glance an effort which fizzed narrowly wide of the home goal.
Moments later, Rotherham failed to deal decisively with Cotterill’s free-kick and Wright’s flick on gave Flint, a glimpse of goal but his stabbed finish was diverted to safety by Millers skipper Richard Wood before centre-half partner Semi Ajayi showed great awareness to prevent Cotterill from racing clear following Abraham’s clever back heel, in the Robins’ next attack.
Just past the half hour, Forde needlessly bundled over Joe Bryan on the edge of the box but the home side failed to make it count from the resultant free-kick when Vaulks was well-stationed to head clear Cotterill’s centre at the near post.
Moments later, Bryan and Scott Golbourne combined smartly to pave the way for the former to curl an effort from the edge of the box which was straight down the throat of O’Donnell before good defensive work from Ajayi saw Rotherham turn defence into attack with the blink of an eye as Forde drove hard at the Robins defence to present Mattock with an opportunity to strike but Little blocked his goalbound effort.
With half time approaching, City countered with purpose with Tomlin leading the breakaway and following a one-two with Golbourne, the ex-Bournemouth midfielder fired an effort which forced O’Donnell into a smart save before the home side had a let off when Forde’s incisive centre fizzed across the danger area before striking Little at the far post, but fortunately for the home defender, the ball squirmed narrowly wide of the goal.
Half-time- Bristol City 0 Rotherham United 0
Following a slow start to the second half by both teams, Smallwood injected pace into a visitors’ move before playing a slide-rule pass which seemed to have put Ward in the clear but Little struck out a timely leg to divert the ball to safety.
Moments later, Ward’s run was brought to an abrupt halt by Wright and the Millers top-scorer picked himself up to take the resultant free-kick but his low drive was comfortably gathered by Fabian Giefer on his own line.
The Millers were indebted to O’Donnell for keeping the scores level, just before the hour mark, when Bryan got a yard on his marker to deliver a hanging centre which looked inch-perfect for the rising Abraham, before despite the highly-rated striker heading towards goal from just inside the six-yard box, O’Donnell pulled off a top drawer save to scoop the ball away from danger.
Minutes later, sub Taylor almost made an immediate impression when he got on the wrong side of the Rotherham defence to advance on goal but he was crowded out before he could get his shot away before Cotterill’s dipping free-kick had O’Donnell nervously scurrying across goal as it flew harmlessly of the target.
Interim boss Paul Warne introduced Jerry Yates and Jon Taylor into the fray and the move almost proved a masterstroke when O’Donnell’s throw out saw the ex-Peterborough winger show the home rearguard a clean pair of heels before delivering a delicious centre which was inches away from the run of Yates, who would have been a certain scorer.
The Millers’ travelling contingent had their hearts in their mouths when Taylor tumbled under the challenge of Wood in the box but the referee waved away home appeals for a spot-kick.
However, Rotherham failed to heed the warning as City broke the deadlock with 17 minutes remaining.
Wood’ errant clearance paved the way for a City attack and the ball was played to Taylor, who got a yard on his marker, before striking a rasping effort from the edge of the box which forced a superb acrobatic save by O’Donnell, but agonisingly for the Millers, the ball looped into the path of Djuric, who headed into the heart of the unguarded net.
Moments later, Cotterill became the first to see yellow for time wasting before the ball pinged around the home box after Ajaji nodded on but Yates was unable to turn the ball goalwards before an offside flag came to the Robins’ rescue with Wood set to strike.
With time running out for the visitors, sub Dexter Blackstock rose highest to meet Newell’s centre but he was unable to control his header as it cleared the crossbar before Purrington’s superb block prevented Marlon Pack from giving the score a more flattering look to the hosts, in the last action of note, following good work by Bryan and Djuric.
Full-time- Bristol City 1 Rotherham United 0
Bristol City 1
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Bristol City- Giefer, Little (M Taylor 58), Bryan, Flint, Abraham (Djuric 58), Tomlin (Paterson 58), Golbourne, Pack, Hegeler, Cotterill, Wright. Unused- Fielding, Brownhill, O’Dowda, Vyner
Rotherham- O’Donnell, Kelly (Blackstock 86), Mattock (Yates 63), Vaulks, Wood, Forde (J Taylor 67), Ward, Ajayi, Newell, Purrington, Smallwood. Unused- Bilboe, Allan, Bray, Warren.
Referee- P Bankes
Attendance- 18737 (210).