Smith's last gasp winner hands Millers win
MICHAEL Smith was the Rotherham United hero with a last-gasp winner to give Rotherham United the perfect home Championship return, at the expense of Paul Hurst’s Ipswich Town.
Despite being second best for the majority of the first half, Paul Warne’s side gave a better account of themselves in the second period and they were duly rewarded with Smith’s well-taken effort which sent the AESSEAL New York Stadium faithful into raptures, near the end.
Following their opening day defeat at Brentford last weekend, Millers chief Warne made just one change to his starting line-up with Kyle Vassell being handed his first league start in Millers colours, following his impressive substitute cameo at Griffin Park.
Zak Vyner was also granted his home league debut while the Tractor Boys had a few familiar faces in their ranks with former Millers loanee Grant Ward named in the visitors line-up while former club legend Hurst, took his place in the dugout.
The Suffolk outfit had the first sight of goal when Joe Mattock was caught napping from a quick throw and Gwion Edwards drilled a dangerous centre across the face of goal and the Millers were indebted to Vyner, for a superb clearance, from near his own goal line, with a number of Ipswich forwards ready for a tap-in.
From the resultant corner, Toto Nsiala blasted harmlessly wide before Jon Nolan’s snap shot, from just inside the box, was bravely blocked by Will Vaulks, in the next phase of play.
Just before the quarter hour, Mattock was thankful for a referee’s whistle to dig him out of trouble with Edwards breathing down his neck, as he headed towards his own goal before Nsiala’s flighted free-kick was misjudged in the air by Semi Ajayi and Ellis Harrison got the ball under his spell to advance on the Rotherham goal but in a one-on-one duel with Marek Rodak, the Slovakian stopper struck out a timely arm to prevent the former Bristol Rovers striker rounding him – with the goal unguarded.
In Rotherham’s first foray of note, an innocuous ball forward saw Vassell in a foot race with Nsiala but the ex-Shrewsbury defender recovered smartly to snuff out the danger before the referee waved away faint appeals for a penalty, at either end, after Vassell tumbled under the challenge of Nsiala in the Ipswich box before Ajayi appeared to fell Nolan, at the other end, but neither side were awarded a spot kick.
Just before the half-hour mark, Cole Skuse fired an effort from the edge of the box which was deflected over by a retreating Millers defender before Skuse turned provider to clip a ball into the box which was inches away from the attentions of Ipswich skipper Luke Chambers, who had ghosted into the six-yard box.
Minutes later, Matt Palmer became the first to see yellow for tripping Ward in full-flow on halfway before the Millers were thankful to Rodak for keeping the scores level at the interval when one-touch passing involving Ward and Nolan paved the way for Jonas Knudsen to get on the wrong side of Vyner before he poked a low effort towards goal but Rodak got down smartly to smother his goalbound effort.
In the last noteworthy action of the half, Jon Taylor pounced on a weak Ipswich clearance to volley goalwards but his effort was straight down the throat of Bartosz Bialkowski before Ajayi embarked on a marauding run from the back which drew gasps of appreciation from the home faithful before the sting was taken out of the Millers move.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 0 Ipswich Town 0
With the words of Warne ringing in their ears, the Millers were quick out of the blocks, at the start of the second half and Vassell latched onto Rodak’s long clearance to get the better of Janoi Donacien before drilling a low left-footed effort from an acute angle which forced Bialkowski into a smart, sprawling save before Smith was the next to latch onto another Rodak punt forward to unleash a half-volley, from just outside the box, which had the Polish ‘keeper nervously scurrying across goal, as it smashed into the side netting.
At the other end, Rotherham failed to deal decisively with a hopeful punt into the box and Nolan latched onto the pieces before firing a low effort which went through the legs of Ajayi but Rodak was able to watch the ball fly harmlessly wide of the target before Palmer and Wood put their bodies on the line to block Skuse’s fierce drive, on the edge of the box, in the visitors’ next attack.
On the hour mark, the home fans had their hearts in their mouths when Nolan took aim from distance with a stinging drive which had Rodak nervously flying across goal, as it shaved the home upright before Smith was forced to divert Trevoh Chalobah’s toe-poked effort to safety.
With the game in the balance, the Millers threatened the Ipswich goal when Bialkowski failed to deal with a diagonal free-kick into the area and Ajayi hooked the ball goalwards and in the ensuing melee, Vassell’s fired effort was headed clear by Chalobah – with the visitors at sixes and sevens.
Moments later, Ipswich turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye and Vaulks’ reckless tackle on sub Kayden Jackson on the edge of the box, earned the home midfielder a yellow card and almost proved more damaging to the Millers when Edwards curled a delightful free-kick which sailed towards the bottom corner of the goal until Rodak’s superb diving intervention kept the ball out.
Minutes later, Wood led from the front with a superbly timed tackle in the box to prevent Jackson from firing goalwards before Vyner had his pocket picked in a dangerous position and the former Accrington striker drilled a low effort which stung the palms of Rodak, in the next visitors attack.
In the latter stages of the game, the Millers had a stroke of luck when sub Jordan Roberts got on the wrong side of Mattock before being felled under the challenge of the home full-back, in the box, but despite the strong appeals of Ipswich players and fans’ alike, the referee waved away their protests.
In the dying minutes, Rotherham upped the tempo and Smith forced Bialkowski into a smart save from distance before sub Anthony Forde pounced on a loose ball to drive forward with purpose before unleashing a fierce drive which appeared to swerve in the air as Bialkowski initially seemed to be wrong footed before fortuitously getting a hand to it, to keep the ball out.
The Millers grabbed the all-important winner when sub Ryan Williams was needlessly bundled over from Nsiala, near the touchline, and the home side punished his indiscretion to the full when Forde swung the resultant free-kick into the area and with Ipswich unable to clear the danger, Smith showed his attacking instincts to hoick the ball into the corner of the goal giving Bialkowski no chance and send the home fans into ecstasy.
Full-time- Rotherham United 1 Ipswich Town 0
Rotherham United 1
Ipswich Town 0
Teams:- Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood, Palmer, Taylor (Forde 68), Vassell (Jones 90), Newell (Williams 62), Smith. Unused- Price, Ball, Wiles, Raggett.
Ipswich- Bialkowski, Donacien, Knudsen, Chambers, Chalobah, Edwards (Roberts 82), Skuse, Harrison (Jackson 67), Nolan, Ward (Edun 77), Nsiala. Unused- Gerken, Spence, Sears, Kenlock.
Referee- D Webb
Attendance- 9460 (1345)