Fourth win on the bounce for Millers...
GOALS either side of the interval from Joe Newell and Semi Ajayi earned Rotherham United their fourth win on the spin, at the expense of promotion rivals Scunthorpe United.
In a fairly even first half at Glanford Park, Joe Newell’s strike put the Millers’ ahead at the break before Semi Ajayi doubled their lead with a well-taken header.
However, Scunthorpe struck back immediately to halve the deficit through sub Lee Novak but despite the setback, the Millers withstood a late rally from the hosts to stretch their unbeaten league run to 11 games.
Following their trio of home wins at the AESSEAL New York Stadium base, Millers chief Paul Warne made just one change to his starting line-up for the short hop to North Lincolnshire.
Irish midfielder Richie Towell returned to the Millers engine room after shrugging off a knee injury as Matt Palmer had to settle for a substitutes’ berth.
There was a familiar face in the Iron ranks with one time loanee Josh Morris lining up against his former employers.
The Millers had the first sight of goal when Neal Bishop dwelt in possession in his own box and David Ball pounced on the hesitation to give Newell, a sight of goal, but his effort was blocked by a retreating defender.
At the other end, Marek Rodak had to be on his toes to pluck Morris’ floated cross out of the sky before Anthony Forde’s hanging cross saw Michael Smith in an aerial duel with Matt Gilks and with the home ‘keeper failing to take charge, both Ball and Newell looked to turn the ball goalwards, until the referee’s whistle came to the home side’s rescue.
Minutes later, Will Vaulks’ clever switch of play paved the way for Josh Emmanuel to charge down the touchline to hang a centre which was met by the head of Smith, but the Rotherham frontman could not control his effort, as it whistled harmlessly over the bar.
Just past the quarter hour, Conor Townsend delivered a tantalising centre which saw Ivan Toney rise highest, at the far stick, but he headed over under pressure from Joe Mattock, although any goal would have been chalked off for a foul.
At the other end, Rotherham countered with purpose and Emmanuel cut inside to float an inviting centre which saw Newell emerge from the ruck of bodies to loop a header which had Gilks backtracking nervously as it narrowly cleared the home crossbar.
Just past the half hour, Scunthorpe turned defence into attack, in the blink of an eye, following the breakdown of a Rotherham corner and Duane Holmes jinked past Mattock to fire an effort which Rodak spilled initially, giving Tom Hopper, a sniff of goal but the Slovakian regained his composure to gather, at the second attempt.
Minutes later, Rotherham grabbed the lead when Vaulks’ planted a hopeful ball into the box and Newell emerged from the masse of bodies, to swing an effort, with his weaker right foot, and the ball looped into the far corner of the goal past a motionless Gilks, who was rooted to the spot.
The home side responded positively to the setback and Manick Vermijl slashed a snap effort narrowly wide of the target from an acute angle before home skipper Rory McArdle blasted into the visiting faithful behind the goal, despite having the goal at his mercy, moments later.
In the next phase of play, Newell had an opportunity to strike goalwards following good work by Ball but Murray Wallace put his body on the line to block his effort en-route to goal.
With half-time approaching, the Millers faithful had their hearts in their mouths when a fine home move paved the way for Funso Ojo to try his luck from outside the box and Rodak could only spill the ball into the path of Toney, who tumbled under the challenge of the Rotherham ‘keeper, who looked to atone for his error, but the referee waved away home appeals for a spot-kick.
Half-time- Scunthorpe United 0 Rotherham United 1
The Iron were quick out of the blocks after the break and after Ajayi felled Toney just outside the box, the Newcastle loanee dusted himself down to take the resultant free-kick but he fired his effort straight into the Rotherham wall.
Moments later, Vermijl made good yards down the right flank and his pullback was inviting for Morris, who dug out a shot from the edge of the box which flashed across the goal – with Toney’s outstretched leg inches away from turning the ball into the unguarded net.
At the other end, Newell sprung a counter attack which saw Smith play a slide rule pass into the path of Vaulks, who got the ball from under his feet to clip an effort from distance which failed to trouble Gilks in the home goal.
Moments later, Newell floated a deep corner to the far post and Smith rose highest to plant a point-blank header into the side netting before sub Ryan Williams released a rampaging Mattock down the left, but his cross was snuffed out by McArdle.
The Millers were knocking on the door for a second goal and they finally broke home resistance when Forde raced into the box to present Vaulks with the chance to work a shooting position and although the ex-Falkirk midfielder’s shot was blocked, the ball looped invitingly into the path of Ajayi, who kept his nerve to head home – to send the masses of Rotherham fans into ecstasy behind the goal.
However, Rotherham’s joy proved short lived as Scunthorpe reduced the arrears almost immediately when a stray pass was not dealt with decisively by the Rotherham rearguard and sub Lee Novak pounced on the hesitation to round Rodak and although Mattock raced towards his own goal, in an attempt to cut out the danger, the home striker evaded his attentions to stroke the ball home.
The home side were building up a head of steam and Ajayi’s frustration boiled over when he was booked for dissent following a tussle with Toney before Ojo tried his luck from distance but his rasping effort flew narrowly over the crossbar.
Moments later, Holmes joined him in the book for a cynical foul on Williams before Emmanuel became the next to incur the wrath of the referee for timewasting.
In the latter stages of the game, Forde became the next to see yellow before Scunthorpe missed a gilt edged chance to level matters, in the dying seconds, when another hopeful punt caused havoc and Holmes looked a certain scorer – with Rodak in no man’s land, but he fluffed his lines when he screwed his effort wide of the target, despite the goal gaping.
In the aftermath of the incident, the referee brought the game to a close to the delight of the visiting faithful, as the Millers cut the gap to the hosts to just one point- with a game in hand on the Lincolnshire outfit.
Full-time- Scunthorpe United 1 Rotherham United 2
Scunthorpe United 1
Rotherham United 2
Teams:- Scunthorpe- Gilks, Townsend (L Williams 87), Wallace, Ojo, Toney, Morris, Bishop (Adelakun 75), Hopper (Novak 66), Vermijl, Holmes, McArdle. Unused- Watson, Goode, Burgess, R Yates.
Rotherham- Rodak, Emmanuel, Mattock, Vaulks, Ajayi, Wood, Forde, Ball (Lavery 75), Towell, Newell (Williams 67), Smith. Unused- Price, Palmer, Taylor, Ihiekwe, J Yates.
Referee- G Salisbury