Millers claim Premier League scalp
ROTHERHAM United warmed up their impending Championship campaign in fine style as they claimed the scalp of Premier League outfit Cardiff City, thanks to goals either side of the interval by Matt Palmer and Michael Smith.
In the Millers’ only home friendly of their pre-season campaign, Josh Murphy gave the Bluebirds an early lead with a tap-in before Palmer’s bullet header levelled matters for the hosts. Just moments after the Welsh side were denied a spot-kick, Smith struck the decisive winner from the edge of the box to give Paul Warne’s side a morale-boosting victory.
The AESSEAL New York Stadium faithful got their first glimpse of Bristol City loanee Zak Vyner, who was asked to ply his trade in the right back slot while fellow new recruits Clark Robertson, Kyle Vassell, Billy Jones and Sean Raggett, who signed earlier in the day, were named among the substitutes.
Warne’s men were also given a boost prior to kick-off when Marek Rodak put pen-to-paper on his second season long-loan from his parent club, Fulham and the Slovakian Under-21 ‘keeper was thrusted immediately in the fray, by taking his place on the Millers bench.
The Millers had the first shot in anger when Joe Mattock blasted an effort over the bar from distance after Vyner’s looping cross was only half-cleared by the Bluebirds defence before Sean Morrison was forced to head behind under pressure from home runners.
Moments later, Ryan Williams got a yard on Bruno Ecuele Manga to work a shooting position but his left-footed effort, from just outside the box, was smothered by Neil Etheridge.
In Cardiff’s first foray of note, Semi Ajayi recovered smartly to prevent Bobby Reid from digging out a cross before Lewis Price plucked out Ecuele Manga’s cross out of sky, from the resultant corner.
However, Neil Warnock’s side took the lead, just minutes later, when Greg Cunningham’s dangerous cross was not dealt with decisively by Price, who could only parry the ball against Murphy and the lively winger had the simple task of tapping home the rebound into the unguarded net from close range.
Minutes later, Joe Ralls tried his luck with a long range free-kick which was deflected behind by the Millers wall before Murphy threatened the home goal, once again, with a dipping effort which had Price nervously looking over his shoulder, as it whistled narrowly past the far post.
The Bluebirds came within a whisker of doubling their lead when good work from James Waite in the build-up paved the way for Reid, to fizz a tantalising centre which looked inch-perfect for the on-rushing Kenneth Zohore, who looked a certain scorer, but the Danish striker fluffed his lines when he failed to turn the ball home, from just yards out.
Just before the half hour mark, Ajayi rose highest from Palmer’s delicious free-kick but the home centre-half was unable to guide his header towards goal before Williams latched on to the bits and pieces to drill a low effort which was diverted to safety by the outstretched leg of Ecuele Manga.
Moments later, Rotherham got themselves back on level terms when an arrowed ball into the channel by Smith gave Jon Taylor the chance to stretch his legs and the diminutive winger weighed up his options to hang a centre into the box and Palmer timed his run to perfection to ghost in between two defenders and head the ball into the corner of the net, giving Etheridge no chance.
However, Rotherham’s joy almost proved short lived when the referee brought back play to award the Welshmen a free-kick in the ‘D’ just outside the box after Murphy was upended and Joe Bennett curled the resultant set-piece over the Millers wall but fortunately for the home side, it sailed narrowly wide of the target.
Half-time:- Rotherham United 1 Cardiff City 1
Following the break, Warne and Warnock took the opportunity to reshuffle the pack – with both sides making four changes to their line-ups.
The Welsh side had the first sight of goal in the second half when Murphy skipped to the by-line to pull the ball back into the path of sub Junior Hoilett, who spooned the ball over, when he should have done better before Murphy’s dipping effort failed to trouble Rodak, in the home goal.
Joe Newell made an immediate impact from the bench when he clipped a cross-cum-shot which Alex Smithies was forced to tip over the bar before Ajayi headed narrowly wide from the home midfielder’s resultant corner.
Moments later, fine interplay in the middle of the park involving Will Vaulks and Newell presented Palmer with the opportunity to strike but Smithies got his body behind his stinging drive from distance.
Following another flurry of substitutions, Raggett almost made his mark with his first touch when the Norwich loanee ghosted in unnoticed, just seconds after entering the field, to meet Newell’s inswinging corner, but his header flashed narrowly wide of the target.
Moments later, Newell’s threaded ball was cushioned by Vassell, on the edge of the box, and Smith attempted to drill a low effort towards goal, but a deflection from a retreating defender took the sting out of his shot before sub Gary Madine’s header from Kadeem Harris’ cross, at the other end, was straight down the throat of Rodak.
With the game in the balance, there was a moment of controversy when Nathaniel Mendez-Laing planted a dangerous cross into the box and Raggett, in attempting to hold off Madine, appeared to handle the ball as the ex-Owls striker tumbled under his challenge but the referee waved away Cardiff protests before Rodak snuffed out the danger.
The incident proved crucial as Rotherham took the lead with 12 minutes remaining when the home side worked their way up field and clever work from Vassell gave Smith the opportunity to try his luck from distance and his well-struck effort beat the outstretched hand of Smithies to find the bottom corner of the net.
The Millers almost sealed the deal when superb one-touch football involving Anthony Forde and Ben Purrington saw the latter deliver a fantastic centre which was inches away from the outstretched leg of Vassell
In the dying minutes, Madine came within a coat of paint of levelling matters for the visitors when his delicate free-kick fizzed narrowly over the bar before Vaulks blasted over from Forde’s cross, in the last noteworthy action of the game.
Full-time:- Rotherham United 2 Cardiff City 1
Rotherham United 2
Cardiff City 1
Teams:- Rotherham- Price (Rodak 46), Vyner (Jones 46), Mattock (Purrington 63), Vaulks, Ajayi (Raggett 63), Wood (Robertson 46), Palmer (Wiles 79), Ball (Vassell 63), Taylor (Forde 63), Williams (Newell 46), Smith (Ihiekwe 79).
Cardiff- Etheridge (Smithies 46), J Bennett (Hoilett 46), Morrison (Connolly 67), Ecuele Manga, Richards (Bamba 46), Ralls (Paterson 60), Zohore (Madine 60), Murphy (Mendez-Laing 60), Reid (Harris 70), Cunningham, Waite (Gunnarsson 46).
Referee- S Duncan
Attendance- 2455 (205)