Millers grab away win thanks to Taylor's strike
JON Taylor’s first-half strike earned Rotherham United their first away league victory since April 2016 at the expense of Kenny Jackett’s Portsmouth following a superb backs-to-the wall effort at Fratton Park.
In a finely balanced first half, Taylor notched the all-important goal when he latched onto Ryan Williams through ball to rifle an effort into the roof of the home net.
The home side ramped up the pressure in the second half but ‘keeper Richard O’Donnell and a resolute visiting defence held firm as the Millers loyal band of travelling supporters made the long trek north in buoyant mood.
Following their home defeat at the hands of Charlton Athletic last time out, Millers chief Paul Warne reshuffled his defensive pack for the visit to the south coast.
Shaun Cummings was handed his first Millers league start in the right back slot at the expense of Josh Emmanuel while Ben Purrington was named on the opposite flank with Joe Mattock unavailable. Experienced campaigner Richard Wood was asked to marshal affairs at the heart of the Rotherham rearguard alongside Michael Ihiekwe.
Will Vaulks was given an opportunity to impress in the midfield engine room while Taylor was asked to provide the ammunition for lone frontman Kieffer Moore in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Deadline day signing Richie Towell was named amongst the Millers substitutes.
The visitors were quick out of the blocks and after Ryan Williams tumbled under the challenge of Jack Whatmough on the edge of the box, Taylor had the first sight of goal from the resultant free-kick but his curling effort sailed over the Pompey wall but failed to trouble home ‘keeper Luke McGee.
At the other end, Conor Chaplin fired a dangerous centre into the Millers box before Taylor led a lightning Rotherham counter attack but his attempted through ball to Williams was cut out by a retreating defender.
Moments later, Taylor’s snap shot was blocked by Lowe en-route to goal before Brett Pitman came within a coat of paint of giving Pompey the lead when he ran hard at the Rotherham defence, giving Vaulks the shoulder before arrowing a shot which whistled narrowly over the visitors’ bar.
Just before the quarter hour, Ihiekwe had a glimpse of goal when Moore latched onto Taylor’s floated free-kick in the box but the ex-Tranmere defender, under pressure from home defenders, could only scoop an effort over the bar.
Moments later, a fine flowing move involving Will Vaulks and Darren Potter saw Taylor ghost past Christian Burgess with a minimum of fuss to skip to the by-line where the Millers winger clipped a cross to the far stick but Lee Frecklington’s shot was charged down by the home defence.
In the Millers next attack, Williams’ clipped ball forward was superbly controlled by Moore, who volleyed goalwards but the in-form striker failed to make a clean connection as McGee snuffed out the danger.
Moore was in the thick of the action and Taylor whipped in an incisive centre which was met by the head of the Ipswich loanee but his downward header was straight down the throat of McGee before Vaulks’ long-range effort was deflected over by Burgess.
Just before the half hour mark, Taylor’s pass left Frecklington short and Pompey launched a quick attack which ended when Brandon Haunstrup cut inside to drill a low effort which was deflected wide before Burgess headed over from Lowe’s resultant corner.
The visiting faithful had their hearts in their mouths when Haunstrup and Chaplin combined smartly to give Oliver Hawkins the opportunity to strike and his curling effort had O’Donnell nervously scurrying across goal as it flew narrowly wide of the target.
With the game finely balanced, the Millers took a grip on the game on 36 minutes when Frecklington threaded a ball to Williams, who injected pace into the visitors move before playing a slide-rule pass into the path of Taylor, who left a retreating defender in his wake, as he smashed an effort which gave McGee no chance as it flew into the roof of the home net.
The home side responded positively to the setback and Matt Clarke headed wide, at the back post, from Chaplin’s corner before Haunstrup dug out a cross which saw Lowe nip in front of Purrington, to power a header which narrowly cleared the Millers bar.
In the dying seconds of the half, Moore put the home defence on the backfoot as Vaulks swept out a pass to Taylor, who was proving a thorn in Pompey’s side, as he took on last-man Burgess to drill a left-footed effort which smashed into the side netting.
Half-time:- Portsmouth 0 Rotherham United 1
Following the break, the home side were quick out of the traps when Hawkins’ looped a header wide before sub Matty Kennedy, one of two half-time substitutions introduced, clipped a cross to the far post which saw O’Donnell grasp at thin air as Lowe pounced onto the loose ball to drill an effort which shaved the far post.
Minutes later, the home fans were calling for a spot kick as Ihiekwe’s stray boot caught Hawkins in the box, as he attempted to clear but the referee waved away Pompey’s vehement appeals for a penalty.
The home fans were off their seats once again when Potter became the first to see yellow for a hefty challenge on halfway before sub Anthony Forde led a rare Rotherham foray to deliver a centre which was met by the head of Taylor, who headed over.
Just past the hour mark, the Millers were indebted to Potter for preserving their slender lead when Hawkins planted a header which had O’Donnell looking nervously over his shoulder as it looped towards goal but the ex-MK Dons midfielder came out of nowhere to head clear from underneath his own crossbar.
Moments later, Lowe’s back post header from Kennedy’s centre was straight down the throat of O’Donnell before Purrington became the latest to see yellow for a wild challenge on Lowe.
The Millers had a scare when Clarke’s ramping run and cross whistled across the six-yard box with Lowe inches away from tapping home at the far post before Burgess could have no complaints in receiving a yellow-card as he cynically upended Taylor in full flow.
Vaulks’ speculative effort from distance was a brief moment of respite for the Millers defence before sub Nathan Thompson hacked an effort wide from the edge of the box.
The home side were cranking up the pressure and Wood put his body on the line to block O’Keefe’s snap shot before May got the ball from under his feet to curl a left-footed effort which arrowed inches wide of the target with O’Donnell flying across his goal.
Despite late pressure from the hosts, the Millers weathered six minutes of stoppage time to earn their second league win of the season to great acclaim from the Millers following.
Full-time:- Portsmouth 0 Rotherham United 1
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Portsmouth- McGee, Clarke, Burgess, O’Keefe, Pitman, Hawkins (Naismith 70), Whatmough (Thompson 46), Lowe, Chaplin (Kennedy 46), May, Haunstrup. Unused- Bass, McCrory, Donohue, Close.
Rotherham- O’Donnell, Vaulks, Wood, Frecklington (Towell 89), Taylor (Newell 85), Potter, Purrington, Ihiekwe, Williams (Forde 54), Moore, Cummings. Unused- Bilboe, Ajayi, David Ball, Clarke-Harris.
Referee- G Ward