Millers slip to narrow defeat...
ROTHERHAM United’s Championship survival hopes were dealt a blow as fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers earned a narrow victory in their Boxing Day Roses clash.
With the game at the University of Bolton Stadium finely poised at the interval with Will Vaulks cancelling out Sammy Ameobi’s opener, Gary O’Neil struck the decisive winner with 25 minutes remaining to send the Millers back over the Pennines empty-handed.
Following the home defeat to West Bromwich Albion in their last run-out, Millers boss Paul Warne made a solitary change to his starting line-up for the trip to Lancashire.
Striker Jamie Proctor was recalled to the first eleven against his former club, as QPR loanee Ryan Manning had to settle for a substitutes’ berth.
The Millers were given a boost prior to kick-off with left-back Joe Mattock passed fit, following an injury sustained against the Baggies, as Warne reverted to a 4-4-2 formation.
The visitors settled into the clash the quicker and fine work by Proctor near the touchline paved the way for Mattock to burst into the box but his cross was diverted to safety before skipper Vaulks had the first shot in anger with a rising effort from distance which flew into the home faithful behind the goal.
In Bolton’s first forays of note, Semi Ajayi had to be on his toes with a timely tackle to prevent Joe Williams shooting goalwards following Ameobi’s neat header before Marek Rodak was quick off his line to snuff out the danger with Clayton Donaldson in hot pursuit following Mattock’s error.
Just before the quarter hour, Clark Robertson became the first to see yellow for a rash challenge on Donaldson on halfway before Ben Alnwick, in attempting to launch a quick punt up field appeared to be impeded by Michael Smith, and his tame clearance fell kindly for Vaulks, who had a glimpse of goal on his weaker left-foot, but the Millers midfielder could not control his long-range effort which floated harmlessly back into the grateful hands of Alnwick.
The Millers came within a whisker of the breakthrough when Mattock and Joe Newell combined to great effect down the left flank to see the latter clip a cross into the box which was chested down by Proctor into the path of Smith, who executed a volley, from the edge of the box, which shaved the home crossbar.
Minutes later, Richie Towell and Vaulks injected pace into a Millers move and Newell swung a tantalising centre which was met by the head of Ajayi, who could not direct his effort towards the home goal before Joe Williams fluffed his lines with a wayward volley, from the edge of the box, at the other end.
Just before the half-hour, O’Neil floated a free-kick which saw Mark Beevers climb over Mattock to power a header which failed to trouble Rodak, in the visitors goal before Newell’s innocuous punt up field saw David Wheater lose his footing, in attempting to clear, but Proctor was unable to profit, as the home centre-half regained his composure to clear the danger.
The home side had their best spell of the game when Rodak flapped at Ameobi’s deflected cross before Donaldson almost latched onto the pieces to scuff the ball narrowly wide with the Slovakian stopper unable to get the ball under his grasp.
However, Warne’s side failed to heed the warning as the Lancastrians broke the deadlock on 34 minutes when O’Neil played a slide-rule pass into the path of Ameobi, who worked a yard of space on Zak Vyner, to drill a low, left footed effort which skimmed off the home surface to beat the outstretched hand of Rodak to find the bottom corner of the goal.
However, Rotherham responded almost immediately to level matters, just three minutes later, when they were awarded a free-kick near the by-line and Newell curled a delicious ball into the danger area and Vaulks ghosted through the ruck of bodies in the box to rise above his marker and direct a downward header from point blank range into the bottom corner of the net with Alnwick rooted to the spot.
The hosts finished the first-half the stronger when Andrew Taylor drilled a left-footed effort which had Rodak nervously scurrying across goal, as it shaved the Millers upright before Marc Wilson headed over from the resultant corner.
Half-time- Bolton Wanderers 1 Rotherham United 1
Both sides traded efforts, at the start of the second half, when Christian Doidge screwed a shot harmlessly wide for the hosts before Vaulks blasted high and wide from distance following Newell’s lay-off.
Minutes later, Wilson became the latest to incur the wrath of the referee for a scything tackle on Vyner on the edge of the box before Ameobi latched onto the ricochet to fire home via the inside of the post, although the whistle had long sounded – with Wilson yellow-carded, in the aftermath of the move.
The Millers travelling contingent had their hearts in their mouths when Rodak flapped at Taylor’s whipped centre and Williams cleverly worked a shooting position to dribble an effort which was arrowing into the bottom corner until Ajayi, in spotting the danger, diverted the ball away from goal before Doidge failed in his attempts to acrobatically turn home the rebound.
Just before the hour mark, Rotherham cleverly switched the play and fine work from Anthony Forde presented Vaulks – with the chance to fire a snap shot which brought a superb, low, reflex save from Alnwick before the home side scrambled the ball to safety.
With the game on a knife-edge, Doidge squandered an opportunity when he ballooned a shot over from an inviting position following good build-up play from Jason Lowe before Bolton took a firm grip on the game, by regaining the lead, with 25 minutes remaining.
There looked little danger for the Millers until Donaldson got the better of Vyner to race into the box and the former Sheffield United striker fired a low cross which Rodak could only parry into the path of O’Neil, who kept his nerve at the far post, to get the ball under his spell before firing home from a tight angle.
The Millers were visibly deflated by the setback until Beevers was penalised for climbing over Smith on the edge of the box but Newell released the pressure on the home side with an over-hit free-kick.
Moments later, Towell’s pass saw Mattock rampage down the wing to plant a low centre which Smith could not get from under his feet but the ball fell kindly for Towell, who looked to drill goalwards but a host of home defenders, including Lowe, bravely threw their bodies in the way of the Irishman’s shot – with faint appeals for a spot-kick from the visiting hordes falling on deaf ears.
In the latter stages of the game, Rodak kept Rotherham hopes alive with a parried save from sub Josh Magennis’ powerful free-kick after Ameobi was upended on the edge of the box and the Millers almost made it count when Ajayi headed over from a visiting corner before Alnwick had a stroke of luck when he failed to command his area, following back-to-back set-pieces from sub Jon Taylor, but the ball narrowly evaded Rotherham runners on both occasions.
The Millers had the hosts camped deep in their half, during the six minutes of stoppage time, but Warne’s men failed to create any chances of note – with the home side successfully running down the clock for the first victory since September.
Full-time- Bolton Wanderers 2 Rotherham United 1
Bolton Wanderers 2
Rotherham United 1
Teams:- Bolton- Alnwick, A Taylor (Olkowski 67), Lowe, Beevers, Donaldson (Magennis 78), Doidge, Ameobi (Buckley 90), Wilson, O’Neil, J Williams, Wheater. Unused- Matthews, Vela, Noone, Hobbs.
Rotherham- Rodak, Vyner, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Forde (R Williams 66), Proctor (Wiles 83), Towell, Robertson, Newell (J Taylor 74), Smith. Unused- Price, Wood, Manning, Raggett.
Referee- J Simpson
Attendance- 15255 (1583)