Millers bow out of FA Cup....
ROTHERHAM United exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle as two second-half goals from Crewe Alexandra put pay to their hopes.
Will Vaulks’ delightful effort put the Millers ahead before Kieffer Moore had a header chalked off on the stroke of half-time.
Following the break, Brad Walker levelled matters for the home side before Callum Ainley turned the tie in Crewe’s favour with a late strike.
Following their home defeat at the hands of Gillingham last time out, Millers chief Paul Warne reshuffled the defensive pack for the trip to Cheshire.
With Joe Mattock ruled out because of his red-card against the Gills, Josh Emmanuel was asked to deputise in the left back slot with Shaun Cummings operating in his favoured berth on the right hand side of the defensive four. In the heart of the Rotherham rearguard, Semi Ajayi was handed a recall alongside skipper Richard Wood with Richard O’Donnell given a chance to impress at the expense of Marek Rodak between the sticks.
Further forward, David Ball was asked to provide the ammunition for in-form forward Moore while former Rotherham players, Michael Raynes and Jordan Bowery were named in the Alex line-up, managed by one-time Miller David Artell.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when superb interplay involving Ryan Williams and Moore paved the way for Cummings to race clear in the right-hand channel but his centre was snuffed out smartly by Dave Richards with Ball lurking menacingly.
Moments later, Williams’ inviting cross from the right flank sat up kindly for Joe Newell, who volleyed goalwards but his effort was blocked en-route to goal by Perry Ng- with faint Millers appeals for a spot kick with the possible use of a raised arm.
In the next Millers attack, Emmanuel injected pace into a visitors move to give Vaulks, a sight of goal, and the ex-Falkirk midfielder fired a skimming drive from distance which stung the palms of Richards before good work from Williams presented Newell with the opportunity to fire a dangerous centre which blazed across the home six-yard box.
The Millers were rewarded for their early pressure with the opening goal on 22 minutes when Newell got the better of Ng to fizz a cross which was only half-cleared by a retreating home defender into the path of Vaulks, who weighed up his options, from just outside the box before curling a delightful effort which beat the outstretched hand of Richards to nestle into the top corner of the Alex goal.
The Millers travelling faithful were treated to another encore of Vaulks’ trademark sommersault celebration and the Millers midfielder threatened the home goal, with another dipping effort which whistled narrowly over before Newell waltzed past Ng with a minimum of fuss to drill a low cross which was hacked clear by Walker.
In Crewe’s first foray of note, Harry Pickering latched onto a loose ball to arrow an effort from distance harmlessly over the Millers goal before O’Donnell flapped at George Cooper’s corner with Raynes unable to convert at the far post.
At the other end, Newell’s tantalising corner was headed clear by Raynes before Darren Potter, in attempting to put the ball back into the danger area, almost caught Richards napping at his near post with a delicate effort, which bobbled narrowly wide before Newell was lucky to escape sanction for hauling down Callum Ainley near the touchline.
With one minute of stoppage time announced, there was a moment of controversy when Williams earned a corner and from the resultant set-piece, Newell swung a delightful centre which saw Moore emerge from the ruck of bodies to rise highest to plant a header into the heart of the home goal, but the amazement of all those at Gresty Road, the referee, following consultation with his linesman, ordered a re-take of the Rotherham corner, with news following the break that Ball may have been penalised for impeding Richards before the corner was taken.
Half-time- Crewe Alexandra 0 Rotherham United 1
The moment proved crucial, just minutes into the second half, when Crewe levelled matters after Rotherham gave away a needless free-kick.
From the resultant set-piece, Cooper floated a delicate centre into the danger area and with no-one taking charge defensively and O’Donnell slow to emerge from his line, Walker emerged from the masse of bodies in the box to head home into a unguarded Millers net.
The home side looked a transformed outfit after the break and O’Donnell needed lengthy treatment from a clash with Chris Dagnall before Williams could have no complaints in becoming the first to see yellow for a hefty challenge on Pickering.
Moments later, O’Donnell showed excellent distribution with a long punt upfield which almost put Ball in the clear until Pickering’s timely tackle prevented him taking aim at goal before Rotherham came within a coat of paint of regaining the lead when Williams was upended and Vaulks fired a thunderbolt which crashed against the top of the home crossbar.
Cummings became the latest to incur the wrath of the referee for a rash challenge on Cooper before Moore provided a timely assist which saw Vaulks drag a low shot harmlessly wide of the Crewe goal.
With the game in the balance, Bowery showed great tenacity to hook the ball into the danger area which saw Raynes get infront of Moore, to divert the ball goalwards but his effort cleared the Millers crossbar before Ng took advantage of Wood’s mistake to fire a rasping effort, from the edge of the box, which failed to trouble O’Donnell.
In a whirlwind sixty seconds, Moore got the better of Walker, who was forced to haul down the Ipswich loanee- earning a yellow card in the process and Rotherham almost exacted retribution from the resultant free-kick when Moore met Taylor’s centre with a powerful header from point-blank range but the ball seemed to strike Richards en-route to goal before being diverted to safety.
Minutes later, good work from sub Richie Towell and Newell gave Vaulks another chance to strike from long range and he had Richards nervously looking over his shoulder as his rising effort flew narrowly over the home goal.
The Millers were made to pay for their inability to take their chances when Crewe took the decisive lead when Ainley took advantage of defensive hesitation to latch onto a through ball before lofting the ball over the advancing O’Donnell. With Ajayi looking to hook the ball clear from near his own line, the Millers defender could not prevent the ball finding the net.
The Millers fought hard to preserve their FA Cup status when Vaulks’ superbly struck free-kick brought the best out of Richards, with a superb parried save before laying siege to the home goal- but it was ultimately to no avail.
Full-time- Crewe Alexandra 2 Rotherham United 1
Crewe Alexandra 2
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Crewe- Richards, Ng, Walker, Raynes, Dagnall, Bowery (Porter 75), Cooper, Ainley, Lowery, Pickering, Grant. Unused- Garratt, Bakayogo, Nolan, Kirk, Reilly, Stubbs.
Rotherham- O’Donnell, Emmanuel, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood (Ihiekwe 83), Ball (Towell 68), Potter, Newell, Williams (Taylor 61), Moore, Cummings. Unused- Rodak, Forde, Clarke-Harris, Yates
Referee- S Oldham
Attendance- 2597 (603)